Once the world's most famous recorder player, today Frans Brüggen is considered among the foremost experts in the performance of eighteenth century music. He studied the recorder with Kees Otten and flute at the Amsterdam Muzieklyceum. In addition, he took courses in musicology at the University of Amsterdam. At the age of 21, he was appointed professor at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague and later held position as Erasmus Professor at Harvard University and Regent's Professor at the University of Berkeley, making him one of the youngest musical scholars of the time though still remaining, as Luciano Berio wrote, "a musician who is not an archeologist but a great artist".
After finishing his studies he launched a major career as a virtuoso performer of music for the recorder. As a flute soloist, he was equally at home in performances of the Baroque masters and contemporary avant-garde composers. He also gave informative lectures and illustrative performances of recorder music in Europe.
In 1981, he founded the Orchestra of the 18th Century, which consists of some 60 members from 22 different countries. He conducted the orchestra he conducted with fine success on both sides of the Atlantic. Three or four times a year the orchestra assembles to go on tour.
The musicians, who are all specialists in 18th and early 19th century music, play on period instruments, or on contemporary copies thereof. The wide-ranging repertoire this orchestra has recorded for Philips Classics includes works by Purcell, J.S. Bach, Rameau, Haydn, Mozart, L.v. Beethoven, Schubert & Felix Mendelssohn. Many of their recordings have received international awards.
Frans Brüggen also was artistic director of the Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra in Hilversum from 1991 to 1994, and joint principal guest conductor of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in London from 1992. In addition, his conducting activities in recent years have included engagements with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Philharmoniker Hamburg, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Tonhalle Orchestra in Zürich, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and English Chamber Orchestra.
In August 1991, Frans Brüggen made his debut at the Salzburg Festival in two concerts with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, while his return visits to the Festival included a highly-praised series of concerts with the Mozarteum Orchestra. In October 1992 Brüggen, together with Simon Rattle, became the principal guest conductor of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, with whom he is currently recording works by J.S. Bach and Haydn for Philips Classics. Starting in 1998 he is, together with Christoph von Dohnànyi, principle guest conductor of the Orchestre de Paris.
Recent operatic engagements included Mozart's Mitridate, Re di Ponte in Zürich and Gluck's Orfeo with the Opéra de Lyon.