Rotterdam Sinfonia Special – Part 1 of 5

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Rotterdam Sinfonia Special

Part 1 of 5

From humble beginnings to greatness through constant hands-on problem-solving, that is the legacy of the Sinfonia Rotterdam.

Impassioned South African Conrad van Alphen dreamed of giving the close-knit but unstructured classical music talent in Rotterdam a base to work from and grow. The young conductor’s solution? Create a flexible, independent chamber orchestra that could play everything and tour around the city. In 2000, the Rotterdam Chamber Orchestra was born in a shed in his back yard, run from Van Alphen’s small home office.

Van Alphen used his own money and labour to organize the orchestra’s debut concert in Paradijskerk. The event was a success, and Van Alphen used the recording to secure the orchestra’s first concert.

This hands-on problem-solving attitude has endured through all 20 years of the orchestra’s existence, constantly trying to find better ways of doing things themselves. In 2009 they rebranded to the Sinfonia Rotterdam after finding their niche: playing over 35 concerts a year in a compact, 70-minute program format, then hosting drinks afterwards.

This approach ensured high-quality concerts without needing to break and allowed the audience to meet the musicians afterwards, encouraging them to become more involved in the arts. Van Alphen drives this viewer-centric approach forward by beginning each performance by talking to the audience, expanding on the upcoming performance or explaining how they put it together. The Sinfonia Rotterdam has garnered a reputation for its dynamic approach to music, and it has made them an internationally touring success story. Van Alphen is still their chief conductor and artistic director and will be leading them in all their featured concerts.

In this 5-part series, we’ll be showcasing some of Sinfonia Rotterdam’s best work, starting with a 2019 concert premiere of Beethoven’s Symphony No 9 in D Minor, Op. 125, featuring the Octopus Symphonic Choir.

Much like Sinfonia Rotterdam, the Octopus Symphonic Choir is known for their flexibility, having anywhere between 8 and 100 singers available to play any role. The performance these two dynamic forces create is breathtaking.

Wednesdays on Stingray Classica (ch 332) from Wednesday, 2 June

Author: Jan Hendrik Harmse