Edo de Waart has appeared as a guest conductor with every major orchestra in the world. He has been assistant conductor to Leonard Bernstein at the New York Philharmonic, and Bernard Haitink at the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Holland. He has worked for the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and for the Netherlands Radio and Television Music Centre. He has been conducted in San Francisco, Minnesota, The Netherlands, Sydney and Hong Kong.
And now de Waart is the sixth music director for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in its 51-year history.
According to de Waart, he was first approached to assist in the transition when former music conductor Andreas Delfs announced his plans to retire.
“Because of my proximity (he lives near Madison), I was asked if I could help out, maybe conduct a week or two,” de Waart said. “The next time we got in contact, the question had shifted to wondering if I’d be interested in taking over as the new music director.”
According to de Waart, he had known throughout his musical career that the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra had always had a good reputation, and after guest-conducting for a day, he realized that it would be a good arrangement.
“I came into town one day to see if both sides could get a feeling for what my conducting would be like, if the arrangement would work for everyone,” he said. “It was really a wonderful experience. The musicians played very well, and they were enormously hard working, and I thought, ‘I could really do this.’ That’s how it came about, and I haven’t looked back and I haven’t for one second regretted my decision.”
De Waart sees a lot of possibility for the symphony’s growth in the Milwaukee community, once the economy improves.
“The feedback that I’ve gotten has been very positive. There is a high interest in quality here,” de Waart said. “I think there is a quality in the Midwest that is different than other places I’ve conducted, there is a strong work ethic and the community likes things to be real.”
De Waart has called the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra the nation’s best kept symphonic secret, and he hopes that in the future the orchestra will be recognized nationally for its high level of quality.
“That is a truly first-rate orchestra,” he said. “I think once we are able to step out of the shadow, which will take a few years, we can absolutely be a first rate orchestra on the national music scene.”
De Waart said the importance of the MSO to the community goes well beyond its weekend performances.
“Our role as the largest musical institution in this community is a good thing, but it also brings many responsibilities related to the quality of performance and our educational outreach capabilities.”
Edo de Waart
Born: June, 1941 Amsterdam, Netherlands
Wife, Rebecca and two children