AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
The New York Philharmonic, one of the nation's oldest symphony orchestras, has named its 26th music director. Jeff Lunden reports on the Dutch man who follows in the path of Gustav Mahler, Arturo Toscanini and Leonard Bernstein.
JEFF LUNDEN, BYLINE: His name is Jaap van Zweden. He's a violinist who, at the age of 19, was the youngest concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. It was there that one of the New York Philharmonic's most legendary conductors, Leonard Bernstein, asked van Zweden to pick up the baton so Bernstein could listen from the audience.
JAAP VAN ZWEDEN: And I never conducted, but he just said, you have to do it. He put me in front of the orchestra. And so I conducted there for the first time, actually. And then he said, that was pre-bad, but I saw something there; take it seriously. And he encouraged me to - really to become a conductor.
LUNDEN: Van Zweden went on to conduct orchestras in the Netherlands, Hong Kong and Dallas and guest-conduct the New York Philharmonic. The fact that he spent 18 years playing in an orchestra appeals to principal violist Cynthia Phelps.
CYNTHIA PHELPS: We're thrilled to work with Jaap. He's such a terrific musician. And we are so looking forward to making music with this man and starting our new adventure.
LUNDEN: And it will be an adventure. Three years from now, the Philharmonic's home at Lincoln Center will be closed for a complete renovation. The orchestra's president, Matthew VanBesien, says it will be part of the new music director's job to hold the ensemble together as it wanders from venue to venue across the city.
MATTHEW VANBESIEN: Jaap's all in. You know, with everything that he does, whether it's playing the violin, whether it's conducting, whether it's working with an orchestra, whether it's engaging the public, he doesn't do anything in half measures.
LUNDEN: But first, everyone needs to get used to his name, Jaap van Zweden. For NPR News, I'm Jeff Lunden in New York.
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