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Kees Bakels was born in Amsterdam and began his musical career as a violinist. He later studied conducting at the Amsterdam Conservatoire and at the Academy Chigiana in Siena. During his studies he became Assistant Conductor of the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and subsequently held the position of Associate Conductor with that orchestra. At that time he also became Principal Guest Conductor of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra which he took to festivals in England, Finland, Belgium and Spain and on a coast-to-coast tour of the USA. Kees Bakels has also held numerous other titled positions with major orchestras, including the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) where he was Music Director from its inception in1997 to the end of the 2004/05 season. He was the central artistic force behind the creation of the Orchestra and conducted the inaugural concerts at the newly built PETRONAS Hall in Kuala Lumpur. He toured and recorded extensively with the MPO. His other positions have included Principal Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra and Principal Guest Conductor and Artistic Adviser to the Quebec Symphony Orchestra. He was Chief Guest Conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for 10 years until 1999 and still works with the orchestra each season. Kees Bakels

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Kees Bakels was born in Amsterdam and began his musical career as a violinist. He later studied conducting at the Amsterdam Conservatoire and at the Academy Chigiana in Siena. During his studies he became Assistant Conductor of the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and subsequently held the position of Associate Conductor with that orchestra. At that time he also became Principal Guest Conductor of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra which he took to festivals in England, Finland, Belgium and Spain and on a coast-to-coast tour of the USA.


Kees Bakels has also held numerous other titled positions with major orchestras, including the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) where he was Music Director from its inception in1997 to the end of the 2004/05 season. He was the central artistic force behind the creation of the Orchestra and conducted the inaugural concerts at the newly built PETRONAS Hall in Kuala Lumpur. He toured and recorded extensively with the MPO. His other positions have included Principal Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra and Principal Guest Conductor and Artistic Adviser to the Quebec Symphony Orchestra. He was Chief Guest Conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for 10 years until 1999 and still works with the orchestra each season.


Kees Bakels has conducted all the major Dutch orchestras, including the Netherlands Philharmonic, Het Brabant, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and others. Guest-conducting engagements have included Norwegian Radio, KBS (Korea), Orchestre Symphonique de Quebec, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Ottawa and Melbourne Symphony, Orchestre de Chambre de Paris, Orchestre National de Lille, Lausanne Chamber, Orquesta Ciudad de Granada, Berne Symphony and the São Paulo Symphony Orchestras.


Other guest conducting engagements include performances with South Jutland and Wroclaw Symphony orchestras, RTVE Madrid where he premiered a new violin concerto by Torres to great critical acclaim, Royal Flemish and Tampere Philharmonic Orchestras, Barcelona Symphony (conducting Beethoven and Bartok as part of the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra’s Bartok series), Orquestre Sinfonica do Porto Casa de Música and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

 

The 13/14 season will see Kees Bakels return for a number of guest weeks with the newly-formed South Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra (the merged Het Brabant and Limburg orchestras), leading an eye-catching series of concerts year-long across the Netherlands with a number of great Russian works, from Shostakovich’s fourth symphony to Tchaikovsky and Glazunov; in addition to Berlioz’s Harold en Italie; Debussy’s La Mer, a programme of Mozart, including his Serenade No. 10, Piano Concerto No. 20, and Symphony No. 39; and music from the stage, with suites from Wagner’s Die Meistersinger and Tannhäuser and Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. He will also continue his long standing relationship with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, taking the podium for a number of concerts in England, including Mozart’s Requiem.


From the beginning of his career, Kees Bakels has concentrated as much on opera as on symphonic repertoire and has regularly appeared with the Netherlands and the Vancouver Operas.  In the UK he has conducted new productions of Aïda and Fidelio with English National Opera and La Bohème and Carmen for Welsh National Opera. He conducted concert performances of opera for the famous VARA Matinee Series at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam regularly over 25 years. He has championed the lesser known operas of composers such as Mascagni and Leoncavello including Mascagni’s Zanetto, Amica, Il Piccolo Marat, Isabeau, Iris, Nerone and his Messa di Gloria, and Leoncavello’s La Bohème, Edipo Re and Zaza.


Kees Bakels’ recordings include the complete Vaughan Williams symphonies, the complete Nielsen Concerti with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for Naxos, and four recordings with the Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra for NM Classics. He has also recorded with the Philharmonia Orchestra for ASV, the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra for Denon, the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra. Recordings with the MPO for BIS include a Dvorak disc featuring the cello concerto and the Water Goblin, Sibelius and Khachaturian Violin Concerti, Glazunov’s The Seasons and a selection of works by Rimsky-Korsakov including the piano concerto, Russian Easter Festival Overture and Capriccio Espagnol. Kees Bakels’ recording of Saint-Saëns’ Violin Concerto with Jean-Jacques Kantorow and the Tapiola Sinfonietta was nominated in the orchestral category of the BBC Music Magazine Awards. The magazine stated that, “this is a disc of pure delight with stunning performances of a marvellous programme.”  He also recorded a disc of works by Édouard Lalo and Charles Gounod with the Tapiola Sinfonietta which was released by BIS in the summer of 2012.

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Reviews

"Bakels scales and phrases the music to perfection... Ensemble is always crisp, strings silky smooth, timps taut and clear; the woodwind sound fresh and frisky too. In short, it’s hard to imagine this music better done. "

Dan Morgan, Music Web International

"Invariably surprising, there is a less than obvious cultural affiliation between Peteris Vasks’ Musica Dolorosa - the Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra – and Menselssohn’s Symphony no. 2 and Haydn’s Symphony No. 44. Yet, This unlikely alliance, shifting between light and gloom, bright flashes and obscure mysteries, took place yesterday in the great hall of the Maison de la Culture, celebrated by the Orchestre d’Auvergne under the auspices of their guest Maestro Kees Bakels. The dark and daunting 'Musica' of the Latvian Vasks slowly crept through an introspective foray into more of a profound melancholia. Glimmers of Mendelssohn’s Opus in D detracted from this desolation, especially through the dialogue between Plamena Mongova’s piano and Alissa Margulis’ violin. After two encores, the audience were treated to an impromptu minuet prior to the interval. An evening that highlighted the distinction between light and shadow reached its climax in the majestic and austere Symphony No. 44 by Haydn. "

Patrick Ehme, La Montagne

"So who was the real hero of this concert? Pianist John Lill, replacement conductor Kees Bakels or composer Johannes Brahms? Truth is they were all heroes. Bakels belied his veteran status with a high-energy account of the same composer’s second symphony. Maybe he felt Lill’s refusal to rush the concerto demanded something more visceral to follow, and that was certainly delivered. It was partly about tempi, but also about vivid, contrasting colours – most notably, perhaps, in the playing of the BSO trombones. In this sunniest of symphonies, they picked up the composer’s intermittent darker colourings before blazing triumphantly at the finish with their sustained D major triad."

Mike Allen, Portsmouth News

"Kees Bakels and the Bournemouth SO are themselves impressive but their disc also contains the literary extracts with which Vaughan Williams headed each movement, spoken with real feeling by David Timson and sensibly recorded on separate tracks."

Gramophone

"The Malaysian Philharmonic under Kees Bakels plays with real enthusiasm and fire, and as always BIS's sonics represent that last word in brilliance… you have no excuse but to urgently snap up this set."

David Hurwitz, Classics Today

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Discography