Bas Wiegers - Principal Guest Conductor 2018-2022

With the start of the 2018/2019 concert season through summer 2022, Bas Wiegers took over from Sylvain Cambreling as principal guest conductor of the Klangforum Wien .

In this capacity, Bas Wiegers has been invited to lead the direction of several different projects per concert season - such as cycle concerts, stage productions, recordings or mediation projects. In addition, the Principal Guest Conductor contributes, in collaboration with the dramaturgy, to the programming of the projects, and to the development of innovative ideas for the future of the ensemble.

The Klangforum Wien has already worked regularly with the Dutch conductor in previous years. Bas Wiegers conducted a cycle concert in the last concert season, premiered Hyena by Georg Friedrich Haas and his wife Mollena Lee Williams-Haas at Wien Modern 2017, and worked with Ensemble on the music theater project Third Space by Stefan Prins and Daniel Linehan's dance company Hiatus, premiered at the Munich Biennale 2018.

As the Klangforum Wien 's first guest conductor, Bas Wiegers succeeded Sylvain Cambreling, who held this position from 1997 to 2018. Sylvain Cambreling remains associated with Ensemble as guest conductor emeritus and honorary member.

Bas Wiegers - Some Reflections on Diversity and Individuality

The situation

To focus on the "present" means to change permanently. The "now" is always different, always in flux. Forty to twenty years ago, composers and their immediate circle of friends were the driving forces behind the creation of new music ensembles because they felt that they needed different kinds of organisms and constellations for their music. Of course, young composers today write different music than their colleagues did in the 70s and 80s. The new generation of listeners has different expectations than those of the last decades. Their musical experiences require a different medium.

This is all quite obvious, but what does it mean for the established new music ensembles? Founded decades ago, they have perfected and institutionalized themselves over time; and now they are in danger of aging and ceasing to be "contemporary." Like their predecessors, the symphony orchestras, they are becoming specialized ensembles for the music of other generations.

So ensembles (and orchestras !) have to constantly prove their urgency, their necessity, if they want to continue to be relevant for listeners and composers; otherwise, sooner or later, they will lose their relevance. And ensembles - even more than symphony orchestras and opera houses - run the risk of being abolished by a thoughtless policy without much ado, as my Dutch homeland has so regrettably exemplified in the last two years.

Central concepts: diversity and individuality

This does not mean that ensembles should get rid of the repertoire and knowledge they have accumulated over the years of their existence - quite the contrary. The most interesting and viable option might be a hybrid: the musicians still give the audience the opportunity to hear live music from the near and distant past, while at the same time remaining curious about the latest developments in music and thus helping to shape its immediate future. For me, the key concepts we need to focus on are: Diversity and Individuality.

‍Diversity: the importance of versatility

Whether it's race, gender, income, sexual orientation, food, or art, today's world is obviously defined by the idea of diversity. But what does that mean for us contemporary musicians? The world of classical music does not really reflect this new diversity. This is hardly possible with the restriction to the symphonic canon, since this repertoire represents a past that was not as diverse as the world we live in today. But in the field of contemporary music, our task is more extensive. If we want to represent and communicate with the world that surrounds us, diversity in programming, in the way we communicate, in our artistic creation is essential. There is music that requires the focused concentration of deep listening, or near-scientific attention; some kinds of music require an informal setting, and still others depend on theatrical presentation to reach their full potential. The task of today's musicians is to recognize this and find ways to display as much variety as the music they wish to perform.

Individuality - The importance of the curator

When we think about diversity, we also have to think about the personal, about our individual idiosyncrasies. Our fascination with music is the only possible starting point. Without it, we cannot start anything meaningful on stage. Horace's famous lines from the Ars Poetica, in which he talks about the art of recitation, are central to this: "If you want to move me to tears, you must first feel the suffering yourself." It is quite important for musicians, ensembles, and programmers to take the position of a curator: We love this; we think it's extraordinary and we want to prove it. It's important because otherwise we get lost in this enormous diversity. Someone has to make decisions, feel the need to share them, and create a context for audiences to experience them collaboratively.

One reason festivals are so popular today has to do with the fact that they create a social, cultural, and artistic environment in which programmers can build a relationship with their audiences. When this succeeds, the audience may come to events they know nothing about simply because they trust the curator's judgment, or because they enjoy the festival atmosphere. Within a relatively short festival period, this may be easier to do than with longer-term planning for ensembles, musicians, and conductors. But we also have this ability, and as curators we must build on it.

Composers and their relationship to musicians

From the moment music was written down, composers were always also performing musicians. Over time, there were changes; for a while, the composer was considered an artistic genius, passing on his score to the musician, who faithfully played what was written. In the 20th century, there was even a generation of musicians who believed that it was enough to play exactly what was written in order to do justice to the score.

But today, the idea of a composer-genius is only one of many ways to write new music. Many composers work closely with musicians, resulting in a creative process based on reciprocity and collaboration. There are interesting composers who have a traditional musical background - but also those who come from improvisation, from film music, or even from visual or conceptual art rather than music. Our scope is broad - on the one hand, there are still composers who deliver a fully thought-out score; on the other hand, there are composers who can barely read music and whose works require imaginative interpretation to bring their musical ideas to life.

Do we want to perform this entire spectrum? And are we capable of doing so? One thing is clear: if we play only music of high technical quality of instrumentation, such as pieces in the wake of Ravel and Lachenmann, we miss out on a whole lot of other forms of music-making. Above all, the musician-performers are also missing out on acquiring skills on a more co-compositional, co-creative level. But this requires a different attitude, a different work process, and a different kind of responsibility on the part of both the composer and the musician-performer.

One thing is very clear: our time is not one of either/or. It is an era of both/as well; an era of inclusive, multi-faceted programming and behaviors. There is nothing wrong with a symphony orchestra playing pieces by Bruckner or Grisey to a hall full of focused, attentive listeners. But when a group of musicians does nothing else, it definitely seems anachronistic.

Form and content - the stage and the audience

The ensembles that emerged in the 70s and 80s were born out of a need for new musical and artistic directions. But strangely enough, despite the omnipresence of pop culture, they stuck to the traditional stage concept, both in terms of the dramaturgy of the concert event and the behavior of the musicians on stage.

The dramaturgy is now becoming visibly more differentiated. A concert in the format: overture - solo piece - symphony (a romantic formula that has also found its way into many concerts with contemporary music), represents only one of many possibilities. Another is to conceive the programme in the form of an arc, leading the audience from one experience to the next without interruption. This results in a completely different kind of focus and message. Again, it is important to distinguish: not every type of music is suitable for one approach or another. Deciding how to put together a program and how to present it requires great attention to detail. A more holistic dramaturgy will even incorporate ideas regarding lighting, sound, or set design into the process. Connecting with other art forms will not only enrich our own ideas in terms of possible performance design, it will also open the gates to audiences interested in these other fields of the arts, not just music.

Talking about stage presence in the context of musical performances does not mean imposing additional interpretive criteria on the musicians. It is only a matter of recognizing what has always been part of our art, but is often overlooked or taken for granted. A symphony orchestra in tails is theater. Perhaps a very formalized, uniform spectacle, but it is theater nonetheless. We are never anonymous; everything is seen, registered, part of the audience's experience.

That doesn't mean we all have to be fashionably dressed and Instagrammable on stage. A simple violinist in bare feet can be just as captivating as a soloist in a spectacular, glittering evening gown. Different situations require different visual messages, but also different behaviors. Are we relaxed on stage or very concentrated? Is there a distance between performer and audience or do we try to keep this distance as small as possible? Do we communicate directly with the audience? It all depends on how far appearance, stage presence and behavior match the content. The idea that form and content are one has been discussed at great length within other art forms, but it is also valid in music as a performing art.

Addressing the audience directly is still considered something that "serious" musicians do not need and that diminishes the greatness of the art form. Here - as in all other areas of our musical craft - we must learn to think in terms of greater conceptual diversity. Everything depends on how, who, or why someone does something. I once conducted a very complex and disturbing piece by Birtwistle in a free-access afternoon concert. It was a situation where it would have been very easy to scare off an uninformed audience with the "harsh" sounds of new music. But I loved the piece and wanted to open up access for the listeners, to invite them into this world - a world that I had spent many months exploring and that I wanted them to grasp in 20 minutes! I had to ask the organizers again and again before they allowed me to address some simple words to the audience. This fear of making contact has to go. Standing on a stage doesn't always need this distance. We can take the music very seriously and still be open and vulnerable when it comes to performing it.

Music is a live art

We should never underestimate the power of a live performance. I began my journey as CONDUCTOR of the Dutch Ricciotti Ensemble - a student orchestra founded in Amsterdam in the wild, turbulent 1970s to bring music to the people, loosely based on the socialist motto: music for everyone, everywhere. The orchestra still exists today; it plays in public places, hospitals and schools. I am proud to say that I know most of the prisons in the Netherlands, and quite a few abroad, from the inside. I can clearly remember conducting the second movement of Schubert's Unfinished in a prison for women. The atmosphere was tense and the women didn't quite know how to behave towards us. But by the end of the symphony, the mood had changed. And in the silence that followed the music, in that moment before I released the tension, a woman right behind me sighed and said softly, "This is living." I will be forever grateful for that moment. It was one of those rare moments when you get completely honest feedback about what you just did on that strange stage. I realized the power of a group of people focusing together and managing, along with the audience (yes - we need the audience for that too!), to create something that actually changed someone's life, albeit for a short time.

In this age of unlimited internet access to all the music ever recorded in this world, we need to be aware that the power of live music is still timeless and cannot be replaced by anything virtual.


The present is very exciting. In music, we find ourselves in a veritable ocean of possibilities and developments. The boundaries of art music have never been so permeable. There is no one avant-garde. There is no one all-dominant aesthetic. It does not go in a single, clearly defined direction. Our presence on stage can be at once more theatrical and more informal than ever before. It's all wonderfully confusing.

Within this diverse reality, the task for us as musician-performers is to perceive the myriad possibilities of all these different kinds of music, to sharpen our preferences, and to find the best method in each case to bear witness to our love. Composers can be "monogamous" in their love, in their choices. But performing musicians and curators must love diversity and be flexible. We must find ways to deal with this complexity and share our love with listeners in the hope that some of our confusion and fascination will transfer to them. Every step we take in this direction makes the world more complete, more understanding, better.
-Bas Wiegers, 2018

Biography Bas Wiegers

With esprit and undogmatic openness Bas Wiegers recommends himself on the podium of renowned European orchestras and soloist ensembles. For his detailed work, the CONDUCTOR draws on his many years of experience as a violinist and his profound knowledge of the repertoire, from the Baroque to the music of today.

In his native Netherlands, Bas Wiegers has worked with the Residentie Orkest, Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest, Rotterdam Philharmonic and alongside Peter Eötvös with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, among others. He has also made guest appearances with the WDR Sinfonieorchester, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Athens State Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, Ensemble Modern, Musikfabrik Köln, Neue Vokalsolisten Stuttgart and at festivals such as Wien Modern, Holland Festival, November Music, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, London Almeida Festival, Aldeburgh Music Festival and Acht Brücken in Köln.

As an opera conductor, Bas Wiegers has conducted Mozart's Così fan tutte, Britten's Noah's Flood, Kyriakides' An Ocean of Rain, and Poulenc's Les Mamelles de Tirésias and La Voix Humaine. In 2017, he lifted Helmut Oehring's KUNST MUSS (zu weit gehen) oder DER ENGEL SCHWIEG from its baptism at Oper Köln.

The 2018/19 season starts classically with a guest performance of the Philharmonie Zuidnederland at the Robeco Summer Concerts at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, before he premieres the revised version of Georg-Friedrich-Haas' successful opera Koma at the Stadttheater Klagenfurt. He also returns to the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln, the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and Ensemble Modern.

He has a close collaboration with Klangforum Wien, with whom he will launch a new music theater work by Stefan Prins at the Munich Biennale in June 2018 and will make guest appearances at the Holland Festival, Bozar Brussels and Kampnagel in Hamburg during the season. Bas Wiegers is also a valued partner for composers such as Louis Andriessen, George Benjamin, Georg Friedrich Haas, Oliver Knussen, Pierluigi Billone, Helmut Lachenmann and Rebecca Saunders.

Following his musical education in Amsterdam and Freiburg, Bas Wiegers first dedicated himself to his successful career as a violinist with a focus on historical performance practice. In 2009, he was awarded the Kersjes Foundation Conducting Scholarship. This was followed by assistantships with Mariss Jansons and Susanna Mälkki at the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, which encouraged him to focus entirely on conducting.

-Karsten Witt Music Management, 2018

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