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Netherlands Chamber Choir

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Biography

The Netherlands Chamber Choir was founded as the chorus Pro Musica in 1937 by Felix de Nobel for a series of radio broadcasts of Bach cantatas. The following year, de Nobel changed the ensemble's name to the Netherlands Chamber Choir. The early days of the choir featured a host of famous Dutch singers just beginning their careers, including Theo Baylé, Corry Bijster, Greet Koeman, Roos Boelsma, Annie Hermes, and Guus Hoekman. Over the course of the next decade, de Nobel struggled to develop an identity for the choir, which was becoming known as simply a stepping stone for singers on their way to operatic careers. Just after World War II, the choir found sponsorship by the Netherlands Transitional Radio Authority, but soon thereafter, it established itself as an independent organization. The group soon developed a large a cappella repertoire of music from the early medieval period to the present. A series of international tours followed, solidifying its position as leaders in the field. The Netherlands Chamber Choir has performed numerous premieres, including works by Francis Poulenc, Frank Martin, Hendrik Andriessen, Henk Badings, Lex van Delden, and Rudolf Escher. In 1953, the government of the Netherlands instituted an annual subsidy that allowed the choir to remain financially sound and to attract leading singers who could make a career in the ensemble. The next decade saw frequent collaborations with Carlo Maria Giulini in opera productions at the Holland Festival and on tour. As the choir personnel aged, they became the target of critics who felt that they were unable to match developments in younger ensembles that specialized in a period approach to early music. In 1972, Felix de Nobel resigned his leadership. After a brief period of stagnation, the choir re-emerged in the 1980s as a more youthful ensemble of 26 singers without a single conductor. Instead, the group collaborated with various conductors from the thriving early music movement, including Gustav Leonhardt, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Ton Koopman, Jos van Immerseel, Paul Van Nevel, Christopher Hogwood, Roger Norrington, Andrew Parrott, Peter Philips, and William Christie. In 1987, Uwe Gronostay was appointed chief conductor and artistic director, leading the choir in critically acclaimed performances of late nineteenth century works. Gronostay left in 1997 and was succeeded by the team of artistic director Ivar Munk and chief conductor Tõnu Kaljuste. Under Munk and Kaljuste, the choir has expanded its repertoire of contemporary music. Each season, the choir offers its own a cappella concert series in ten cities across the Netherlands. It has performed with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Budapest Festival Orchestra, and the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century. In 2002, Stephen Layton became chief conductor. During the 1990s, the group was found on a number of award-winning recordings, including Vox Neerlandica I and Vox Neerlandica II, surveying the entire history of Dutch vocal music, and those featuring choral works of Poulenc, Hindemith, and Janácek.

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