Born: February 16, 1856 - Dordrecht, the Netherlands
Died: February 22, 1934 - Munich, Germany
The Dutch conductor, violinist, and composer, Willem Kes, studied violin with various teachers in the Netherlands, then with Ferdinand David at the Leipzig Conservatory (1871), Wieniawski in Brussels (1873), and Joseph Joachim in Berlin (1875). He also studied composition with Reinecke, Bargiel, and Kiel in Berlin.
In 1876 Willem Kes was made 1st concert-master of the Park-Orkest in Amsterdam. He became its conductor in 1883, and was also conductor of the Dordrecht's orchestra, choir, and music school from 1877 to 1888. In 1888 he became the first principal conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, leading its inaugural concert on November 3, 1888, and remaining with it until 1895. On his appointment the musical life in the Netherlands suggested almost nothing. Johannes Brahms once said in 1879 that Amsterdam seems to have nice people, but bad musicians. Kes brought his musicians a strict discipline. Those who came late to rehearsals, and fine musicians who played poorly, had to remain behind in the boardroom to practice their parts. He also demanded silence from the audience during performances, something unusual in those days. Under his leadership the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam grew into international fame. Kes took many leading musicians to Amsterdam, including the violinists Pablo de Sarasate and Joseph Joachim and pianist Eugen d'Albert and spent next to the German repertoire as much attention to French composers.
Willem Kes left the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam in 1895 to take up a conducting post with the Scottish Orchestra in Glasgow, succeeding Henschel. His successor as conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam was Willem Mengelberg, who played at the farewell concert as soloist Franz Liszt's Piano Concerto in E flat major. Willem Mengelberg was so in charge of a very disciplined orchestra, which under his leadership became one of the best orchestras in the world.
After his time in Scotland, Willem Kes went in 1898 to Russia, where he conducted the Moscow Philharmonic Society from 1901 to 1905. Subsequently he went to Koblenz, where he was from 1905 to 1926 Director of the Conservatory and conductor of the Musikverein (Koblenz Orchestra). He died at the age of 78 in Munich.
Among his works are a Symphony; overtures; Violin Concerto; Cello Concerto; Der Taucher for Chorus & Orchestra; chamber music; piano pieces; songs.