The Netherlands Radio Choir (= NRC; Groot Omroepkoor) was established in 1945, bringing together a number of vocal ensembles that had ties with the public broadcasting corporations before World War II. From the outset it manifested itself as a highly versatile choral group with an extensive repertoire, moving seamlessly between works from various periods – from Renaissance and Baroque to contemporary music. The choir quickly gained repute as one of Europe’s largest professional choirs.
The choir has performed in smaller ensembles under Carel Laôut, Antoon Krelage, Meindert Boekel and Frans Müller. Its vocalists have worked in large groups with conductors such as Jean Fournet, Benjamin Britten, Bernard Haitink, Eugen Jochum, Carlo Maria Giulini and more recently with names such as Edo de Waart, Valery Gergiev, Jaap van Zweden, Zubin Mehta, Markus Stenz, Riccardo Chailly, Mariss Jansons and Sir Simon Rattle. For the performance of earlier repertoire, the choir has been conducted by specialists such as Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Frans Brüggen and Philippe Herreweghe. In the recent past, the choir’s chief conductors have been Kenneth Montgomery, Robin Gritton, Martin Wright and Simon Halsey. Since September 2008 this position has been held by the Brazilian conductor Celso Antunes.
Since the early 1980’s the choir has been a frequent contributor to the production of the Concertgebouw’s Saturday Matinee series, which led to a considerable increase in performances of premieres and works by contemporary composers such as Ligeti, Pierre Boulez, Harrison Birtwistle, Igor Stravinsky, Mauricio Kagel, Reich, Wagemans, Adès and Adams. The Netherlands Radio Choir performs with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic, but also with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and by invitation, with orchestras outside the Netherlands, including the Berliner Philharmoniker.
Members of the choir perform a cappella in various formations, singing a divergent repertoire. In recent seasons the choir has sung major choral works a cappella, such as Schnittke's Psalms of Repentance, the Engel-Prozessionen written specially for the choir by Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Sun-Dogs by James MacMillan. Repertoire for smaller ensembles was performed under conductors such as Marcus Creed, James Wood, Kaspars Putnins and Stefan Parkman.
The choir recently received very favourable reviews for its rendition of Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, conducted by Mariss Jansons, and Rossini's William Tell with the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Paolo Olmi.
The 2010-2011 concert season marks the 65th anniversary of the Netherlands Radio Choir. The choir will be again performing a broad repertoire in numerous broadcasting series (Concertgebouw’s Saturday Matinee, Vredenburg Friday, concert series of public broadcaster NPS and the Sunday Morning Concert series of the Concertgebouw and broadcasting organisation AVRO). The group will be heard in works such as Prokofiev’s opera The Fiery Angel, Wagner’s Parsifal, Arthur Honegger’s King David, Berlioz’s La damnation de Faust, Edward Elgar’s The dream of Gerontius, Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms and The Wedding and Francis Poulenc's Gloria. The Netherlands Radio Choir will be working with the Radio Philharmonic and the Radio Chamber Philharmonic and with conductors Leif Segerstam, Jaap van Zweden, Michael Schønwandt, Charles Dutoit, John Adams and Hans Graf.
More recent repertoire can be heard in concerts with James Gaffigan (including the Dutch premiere of Harvey’s Messages), with Markus Stenz (Te Deum by Walter Braunfels), Celso Antunes (Inquiétude du fini by Erkki-Sven Tüür) and Jaap van Zweden (Quid est deus by Wolfgang Rihm). Conducted by Brad Lubman, the Netherlands Radio Choir and the Radio Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra will perform compositions by James MacMillan and the Armenian composer Avet Terteryan. Conducted by Sigvards Klava, the choir will give a cappella renditions of works by Alfred Schnittke, Arvo Pärt and Sergei Rachmaninov.
The choir will be the guest of the Berliner Philharmoniker in the 2010-2011 season. Together they performed G. Mahler's Third Symphony, conducted by Simon Rattle. One month later they performed G. Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 (Symphony of a Thousand) with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Mariss Jansons. Again together with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, in April they gave two performances of J.S. Bach’s Passion of St John (BWV 245), conducted by Jan Willem de Vriend.
Conducted by Mark Wigglesworth, the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and the Netherlands Radio Choir have recorded Dmitri Shostakovich’s Second Symphony and Third Symphony in October. This CD is the next one in the Shostakovich cycle for the BIS label. With the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic the choir will record works composed and conducted by James MacMillan for the broadcasting label QuattroLive in June 2011.
The Eric Ericson Master Class will be held from June 27 to July 2, 2011. This biannual master class, of which the Netherlands Radio Choir was one of the joint founders, will be part of the International Choral Biennial in Haarlem. There the choir will be performing a new work by the American composer Vanessa Lann. In the master class, young choral conductors will be coached by Jos van Veldhoven and Michael Gläser.