The Netherlands Chamber Orchestra was formed in 1955, since when its rich history has included many notable achievements. Even after the merger with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra in 1985, the ensemble lost none of its unique identity. The dynamics between the members of orchestra are particularly striking. They rarely play under the baton of a conductor but interact with each other almost instinctively. There is a remarkable chemistry, as is apparent during every performance.
Gordan Nikolić has been the leader, or ‘concertmaster’, of the NKO since 2004. With his infectious passion for music, the Serbian violinist has brought the ensemble to new heights. Nikolić (b. 1968) studied in Basel with violinist and conductor Jean-Jacques Kantorow, but he states that his greatest inspiration was Sir Colin Davis, who in 1997 invited him to become leader of the London Symphony Orchestra.
Nikolić is the guardian of a fine tradition. In the early 1960s, the NKO achieved world fame when it played under its founder, Szymon Goldberg, in New York’s Carnegie Hall. “If ever a concert merited the epithet ‘perfect’, it was the one given by Szymon Goldberg and his Netherlands Chamber Orchestra in Carnegie Hall,” wrote the music critic of the New York Times. Gordan Nikolić took up his appointment as leader and music director in 2004. He does not wield a baton but directs performances from the first violinist’s chair.
Each year, the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra gives dozens of concerts in Amsterdam, usually in the Royal Concertgebouw or the Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ. It visits major venues at home and abroad, but also performs in smaller venues which are not traditionally associated with classical music. They include Amsterdam’s Paradiso, where its concerts of music by 20th century composers such as Mahler and Stravinsky have proven enormously popular.
Like NedPhO, the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra regularly partners with the Dutch National Opera. Recent acclaimed productions include The Barber of Seville, The Magic Flute, The Rake’s Progress, and Trouble in Tahiti en Clemency. The orchestra’s contribution to Rossini’s Il viaggio a Reims prompted one critic to write, “The jubilant Netherlands Chamber Orchestra frolics through the score with obvious pleasure. The musical jokes work to perfection and everything is crisply articulated even in the most rapid passages.”