Equally successful on the concert stage and in the orchestra pit, Ed Spanjaard is a unique figure in the classical music landscape of the Netherlands today. Working both as a conductor and a pianist, he has an affinity for a wide range of musical genres, from classical to contemporary. His production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle with the Dutch Touring Opera achieved the highest international acclaim: “This was an orchestral Wagner; it would have caused a sensation in Bayreuth. Spanjaard supports the singers in an exemplary manner”.
Ed Spanjaard’s recordings cover a broad repertoire, ranging from Mozart concert arias and Edison Award-winning contemporary works by Ton de Leeuw and Rudolf Escher with the Netherlands Chamber Choir to a DVD recording of Boulez’ Éclat in collaboration with the composer himself. In 2019 Ed Spanjaard made a stunning recording for BIS Records of Dutch composer Joël Bons' Nomaden with the Atlas Ensemble and cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras. The composer received the highly prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for this work.
He started his career as a rehearsal pianist at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the Bayreuther Festspiele. It was here that he developed a love for opera. Since then, he has conducted many new productions, including Così fan tutte (Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century), Pelléas et Mélisande (Lyon), Don Carlos and Peter Grimes (Dutch Touring Opera), Der Rosenkavalier and five Puccini operas (Opera Zuid). Spanjaard: "The story that has been transformed into music, the dramatic aspect and all the emotions associated with this must resonate in your heart and throughout your body. This is my goal as a conductor."
He also conducted various chamber operas by Guo Wenjing (Holland Festival, Paris, Frankfurt, Lincoln Center New York). This autumn (2020) the lengthy documentary 'Inner Landscape' by filmmaker Frank Scheffer will be shown at various venues. It presents a fascinating insight into the collaboration between composer Guo Wenjing, Ed Spanjaard and the Chinese Opera’s star soprano Shen Timei.
His successful career of 37 years as the conductor of the Nieuw Ensemble resulted in numerous premieres and tours, including invitations to international festivals in Edinburgh, Berlin, Venice and Shanghai.
Intensive and fruitful collaboration with composers like Carter, Harvey, Ferneyhough, Donatoni and Loevendie led to many new works as well as CD recordings. Ed Spanjaard built up a vast repertoire in his years as Chief Conductor at the Limburgs Symphony Orchestra, with programmes dedicated to specific composers (Messiaen, Ravel, Dvořák, Bartók) as well as unique semi-staged performances of Debussy’s Le Martyre de Saint-Sébastien, for which – at Spanjaard’s request – a new libretto and choreography were provided by Ramsey Nasr and Toer van Schayk, respectively.
He has received regular invitations as a guest conductor by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra ever since 2001, where he is appreciated for his programmes not only of French music (Debussy, Dukas, Roussel) but also of the great symphonic repertoire (e.g. Brahms’ Second and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth). Other orchestras conducted by Ed Spanjaard include the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble InterContemporain (Paris), Ensemble Modern (Frankfurt), Klangforum Wien and both the Munich Symphony and Philharmonic Orchestras.
Ed Spanjaard was asked to perform as both a conductor and pianist at the wedding of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima in 2002.
He has conducted the Residentie Orchestra The Hague on several occasions, including a memorable production of Verdi’s Aida and recordings in the renowned series ‘Four Hundred Years of Dutch Music’.
In 2016 he made his debut with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra conducting Brahms’ German Requiem, and with the Aalto Opera in Essen. Here, he conducted Wagner’s Flying Dutchman and Puccini’s Turandot.
During his recent term as the chief conductor of the Orkest van het Oosten / Netherlands Symphony Orchestra, Ed Spanjaard presented a great deal of new repertoire in addition to the greatest works for full symphony orchestra, such as Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique and César Franck’s Symphony in D minor. His performances of these two works at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw received considerable acclaim.
Among the highlights in the 20/21 season were performances in the NTR ZaterdagMatinee at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw with the Groot Omroepkoor (with French repertoire), a performance of Vaughan Williams' 8th Symphony with the philharmonie zuidnederland, the production The Garden with ASKO|Schönberg and a performance with the Residentie Orkest in de Doelen in Rotterdam (Walls of the Universe).
Recently Ed Spanjaard featured in two major music documentaries: Inner Silence by Frank Scheffer during the Holland Festival, about his collaboration with traditional Chinese musicians, and Weggewist by Harro Henkemans, about the life and work of composer-pianist Hans Henkemans. This film had its premiere during the Dutch Film Festival in September 2021.
During the 2021 edition of November Music Ed Spanjaard will once again be performing with the philharmonie zuidnederland in the annual Bosch Requiem, composed this year by Hawar Tawfiq: Requiem des Fleurs et des Nuages (4 November 2021 at the Amsterdam Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ and 5 November 2021 at the Jheronimus Bosch Art Center in 's-Hertogenbosch).
The première performance of a new production by the Dutch Touring Opera, led by Ed Spanjaard will take place on 2 April 2022: Bedřich Smetana’s Die verkaufte Braut, in a brand-new Dutch-language adaptation by Anne Lichthart. The opera, with the title: Bruid te koop! (translation: Bride for Sale!), will be on tour extensively throughout the Netherlands until 12 May 2022.
In the 22/23 season Ed Spanjaard will be performing in a series of New Year’s concerts with the North Netherlands Symphony Orchestra from 5 until 14 January 2023.
As a pianist, Ed Spanjaard specialises in Lieder accompaniment. Recent concerts include recitals with baritone Maarten Koningsberger, with whom he recorded a CD featuring Mahler’s songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, and with cellist Pieter Wispelwey and mezzo-soprano Cora Burggraaf. Ed Spanjaard was appointed Professor of Orchestral Conducting at the Amsterdam University of the Arts in September 2012.