Jaap van Zweden (pronounced: Yaap fun Zvaydn ('vun' as English 'fun' with soft 'f', 'Zvay' to rhyme w. Eng. 'may')) (born December 12, 1960 in Amsterdam, Noord-Holland) is a Dutch conductor and violinist.
Van Zweden's father, a pianist, encouraged him to begin violin studies at age five, and he studied music in Amsterdam. At age 15, he won a violin competition; this allowed him to attend The Juilliard School in the United States, where he studied with Dorothy DeLay.
In 1979, at age 18, Van Zweden became the concertmaster of the Concertgebouw Orchestra — the youngest violinist ever to assume that position, which he held until 1995.
Van Zweden began to work as a conductor after Leonard Bernstein invited him to lead an orchestra rehearsal in Berlin. He has stated that he learned much about conducting from observing the various conductors who led concerts of the Concertgebouw Orchestra. He conducted smaller ensembles initially, and became a full-time conductor in 1997.
His first Dutch conducting post was as chief conductor with the Orkest van het Oosten (Orchestra of the East, or the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra) in Enschede, the Netherlands. He served in this post from 1996 through 2000. Van Zweden was chief conductor of the Residentie Orchestra in The Hague from 2000-2005, with whom he recorded the complete symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven. In 2005, he became chief conductor and artistic leader of the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest (RFO; Netherlands Radio Philharmonic) in Hilversum. In February 2007, he extended his RFO contract through 2013. In August 2010, the orchestra announced that van Zweden would step down from the RFO chief conductorship in 2012 and take the title of honorair gastdirigent (honorary guest conductor, or principal guest conductor). van Zweden served as chief conductor of deFilharmonie (Royal Flemish Philharmonic) in Antwerp from 2008 to 2011.
Outside of Europe, van Zweden made his U.S. conducting debut with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra in 1996. His second US guest-conducting appearance was with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in February 2006, a concert that was highly acclaimed. Based on this engagement, the Dallas Symphony named van Zweden their next Music Director after Andrew Litton, effective with the 2008–2009 season. His initial contract is for four years, where in the first year he is scheduled to conduct 12 weeks of subscription concerts, and for 15 weeks in the subsequent 3 years. For the 2007–2008 season, he held the title of Music Director Designate and conducted 3 subscription concerts. In October 2009, the Dallas Symphony announced the extension of his contract through the 2015-2016 season. In November 2013, the orchestra announced a further extension of his contract through 2019. In January 2012, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra announced the appointment of van Zweden as its next Music Director, with an initial contract of four years, starting from 1 August 2012. He made his debut as the Music Director of the orchestra on 28 September 2012.
Since 1983, van Zweden has been married to the artist Aaltje van Zweden–van Buuren. They have a daughter, Anna-Sophia, and three sons, Daniel, Benjamin and Alexander. The van Zwedens have a particular interest in autism, as their son Benjamin is autistic. In 2000, they set up the Papageno Foundation to provide autistic children with music therapy.
Papageno Foundation website (Dutch language)
RFO conductors profile