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.
The première performance of a new production by the Dutch Touring Opera, led by Ed Spanjaard will take place on 3 October 2020: 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 11 November 2020.
Ed Spanjaard will be performing in the 2020/21 season at the NTR ZaterdagMatinee in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw (with French repertoire) and in a series of New Year’s concerts with the North Netherlands Symphony Orchestra in January 2021. At the end of February 2021 Ed Spanjaard will travel to Montréal to conduct the Atlas Ensemble in the North American premiere of Joël Bons’ Nomaden.
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.