Jac van Steen has conducted the Ulster Orchestra many times over the years and their important musical relationship was formally recognised in 2014 when Jac agreed to become the Orchestra’s Principal Guest Conductor, bringing his international experience to Northern Ireland at a critical time in the Orchestra’s history. He was subsequently appointed Honorary Principal Guest Conductor at the start of the 2020/21 Season.
Within his first few weeks as Principal Guest Conductor of the Ulster Orchestra, Jac van Steen’s adaptability was in evidence in the concert hall, conducting the opening perfomance of the 2014 Ulster Bank Belfast Festival before hosting a week of conducting masterclasses for emerging conductors. This culminated in him presenting a very special Ulster Orchestra lunchtime concert, featuring the winning participants.
In November 2014 Jac van Steen was conductor for a unique cross-border collaboration between the Ulster Orchestra and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, marking the centenary of World War One with a performance of Britten’s War Requiem (the first Belfast performance in over 30 years). This ambitious undertaking brought together the two orchestras, soloists, two conductors, the Belfast Philharmonic Choir, Leeds Philharmonic Chorus and the Girl Choristers of St Anne’s Cathedral for a sell-out performance in St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast.
“Jac van Steen masterfully conducted this massed musical array… the sandstone walls reverberated with the stark impact of Britten’s uncompromising music… there was a pervasive feeling of rapt attention from the audience. To experience a work of this magnitude is incomparable. Five Stars.” – Belfast Telegraph
Jac van Steen was born in The Netherlands and studied orchestral and choral conducting at the Brabants Conservatory of Music. Since participating in the BBC Conductors Seminar in 1985, he has enjoyed a very busy career, conducting the leading orchestras in The Netherlands, the UK, Switzerland and Germany. He has held the posts of Music Director and Chief Conductor of the National Ballet of The Netherlands, the orchestras of Bochum and Nuremberg, the Staatskapelle Weimar, and the Opera and Philharmonic orchestras of Dortmund, Musikkollegium Winterthur (Switzerland). He was Principal Guest Conductor for several years of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and currently holds the same position with both Prague Symphony Orchestra (since 2013) and the Ulster Orchestra.
Jac van Steen made his début with Opera North in 2013, conducting Britten’s Peter Grimes. Other highlights in that same year were his concerts with the Philharmonia Orchestra, both on tour and at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, and his débuts with the Vienna Volksoper conducting Loriot’s Wagner’s Ring in One Evening and at Garsington Opera (Intermezzo). 2015/16 saw him in the UK for engagements with various British orchestras including the Philharmonia, the City of Brimingham Symphony Orchestra and, of course, the Ulster Orchestra. He also returned to Opera North for Così fan tutte and to the Vienna Volksoper to conduct a new production of Don Giovanni.
Jac van Steen has participated in many recordings for the BBC, as well as live broadcasts of his concerts. He has also made a substantial number of CD recordings with various orchestras on Dabringhaus & Grimm, SOMM, Bridge Records and NMC, among others.
Besides his activities as a conductor, he is dedicated to teaching and is Professor of Conducting at the Royal Conservatory of Music in The Hague, where he has recently developed his brainchild: the National Masters for Orchestral Conducting (NMO) which gives young conductors the chance to work with the best Dutch orchestras. He also regularly works with the Royal Northern College of Music and Chetham’s School of Music (Manchester) as well as the Royal Academy of Music and Royal College of Music (London).