Anyone who has ever been to a concert by Amsterdam Sinfonietta will have been struck by the musicians’ energy and enthusiasm. They play standing up, without a conductor. This calls not only for rigorous rehearsal, but also for intense interaction on the part of the orchestra members. The approach to performing gives the orchestra its unique signature: a perfectly coordinated ensemble, bursting with passion for music.
The Netherlands’ only professional string orchestra, Amsterdam Sinfonietta, has seen its popularity grow in recent years. Artistic director and violinist Candida Thompson puts this down to changes in society: ‘Music is always connected to social circumstances. For a long time it was fashionable to impress people with big orchestras in concert halls. These days people are looking for more personal and intimate experiences, without such a distance to the audience, in the way that chamber music used to be played. We’re actually a large chamber ensemble.’
Amsterdam Sinfonietta’s repertoire incorporates a wide variety of genres, from baroque to contemporary. As well as performing mainstream repertoire, the orchestra champions lesser-known or new works and participates in crossover projects. ‘We collaborate with artists, actors and dancers, and we experiment with lighting as it’s used in theatre, but then very subtly,’ Thompson says.
When it comes to the current musical climate in the Netherlands, however, Thompson has her concerns: ‘Musical tradition is an incredibly important part of our culture and for years it’s been neglected because of cutbacks. Music education is important. It’s like football or drawing: you only get interested if you come into contact with it.’
This is why Amsterdam Sinfonietta is committed to music education, and gives 50 performances a year for children aged four to six. The orchestra also offers conservatory students the opportunity to play with the ensemble, and runs an annual Sinfonietta String Players Day for musicians aged seven to fourteen. The Ambassade Hotel sets great store by these activities, and not only sponsors the orchestra, but also provides financial support to the talented young violinist Svenja Staats.
For more than 30 years, Amsterdam Sinfonietta has been the only professional string orchestra in the Netherlands, and it ranks among the best in the world. The ensemble is made up of 23 string players with a variety of nationalities, all of whom play at soloist level. Amsterdam Sinfonietta works with celebrated musicians such as Barbara Hannigan, Sol Gabetta, Janine Jansen, Isabelle Faust, Jasper de Waal, Martin Fröst, Alexander Melnikov, Christianne Stotijn, Bobby McFerrin, Wende and Blaudzun.