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Perfect harmony of melody and mood

Renowned for its "velvet" strings, "golden" brass and the exceptional and personal timbre of the woodwinds, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) of Holland is widely acclaimed as one of the best symphony orchestras in the world. 

The orchestra premiered on Nov 3, 1888 at Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, the hall after which it is named. It is celebrating its 120th anniversary this year in Beijing at the National Center for the Performing Arts on Nov. 4 and 5.

This is the first appearance of the RCO in Beijing in the past 12 years. In 1996, Riccardo Chailly conducted the orchestra to thrill the local audience. This year, maestro Mariss Jansons takes the baton.

It is the Latvia-born conductor's first tour to Beijing and he brings two programs for the nights, both showcasing its trademark late Romantic repertoire. Tonight will feature Brahms' Symphony No 3, Moesorgski's Pictures at an Exhibition and Beethoven's Egmont Overture. Tomorrow, the orchestra will play Dvorak's Symphony No 8, Mendelssohn's Symphony No 4 Italian and Ravel's La Valse.

"I try to select different styles and flavors. The RCO has its unique interpretation of the late Romantic repertoire. These pieces are familiar to fans of classical music but they can hear the slight difference between RCO and other orchestras," Jansons told China Daily in a telephone interview on Saturday.

Many attribute RCO's emergence as a prestigious orchestra to the fact that so far it has been led by only six chief conductors.

Willem Mengelberg, the second chief conductor, remained at the helm for some 50 years. This is considered an unusually long tenure for a music director. Mengelberg is credited with taking the orchestra to new heights. During his time, composers such as Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, Claude Debussy and Igor Stravinsky conducted the RCO on several occasions.

Richard Strauss called the orchestra "really magnificent, full of youthful vigor and enthusiasm", in 1897.

Other composers such as Bla Bartk, Sergey Rachmaninoff and Sergey Prokofiev performed their own works as soloists. This crucial bond with contemporary composers continues even today.

In Sept 2004, Jansons, one of the most distinguished conductors of his generation, was appointed the sixth chief conductor and opened a new phase for the old orchestra.

Born to a conductor father and an opera-singer mother, Jansons learned to play the violin and piano and also conducting at the Leningrad Conservatory. Then he studied under Herbert von Karajan in Salzburg and in 1971 won the International Herbert von Karajan Competition in Berlin.

Jansons made his debut with the RCO in 1988. Since 2003, he has been principal conductor of the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks in Munich, a post he combines with his position at the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

"I am lucky to be chief conductor at such two great orchestras at the same time. I have made plans for both orchestras according to their characteristics. RCO's members trust me and I enjoy and treasure every concert with them," said the conductor.

"The RCO has a very beautiful sound and a unique interpretation of the repertoire of different ages and composers. But they have also kept their own tradition and characteristics. All the members play at a high level and are strict with themselves in rehearsals and concerts," he continued.

A good conductor can raise an orchestra's standing to international levels, but the special power of an orchestra also lies in the people who make each and every concert a special event. In this sense, the 120 virtuoso members of the orchestra who perform together at the highest level are the guardians of the playing culture that gives the RCO its unique sound and flexibility.

They are together responsible for the "visible" component of the performance experience and their individual talent and commitment contribute to the astonishing magic of the concert.

 Source : China Daily  Editor: Dong Wenwen
· Perfect harmony of melody and mood
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