Peter Dijkstra completed his assignment as Music Director of the Swedish Radio Choir during the concert season 2017/2018. Thus he ended his eleven year long and successful commitment in June 2018, with the concert Le Vin Herbé on 1-2 June. Peter Dijkstra will visit Berwaldhallen again in February 2019 with the concert Songs of imprisonment. A new Mucic Director of the Swedish Radio Choir is yet to be appointed.
Biography of Peter Dijkstra, Music Director Swedish Radio Choir 2007-2018
Peter Dijkstra was born in 1978 in Roden in the northeastern part of the Netherlands. His father, Bouwe Dijkstra, started Roden Boys’ Choir in their home town in 1985, and Peter sang there as a child. The choir’s role models were the Anglican cathedral choirs, and it soon became well known in the music world of the Netherlands. The young Peter was one of the choir members who were lent to bigger productions of musical works in Amsterdam, such as Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute at the Dutch National Opera in 1988. In the 90s, he was also part of a performance of Bach’s collected cantatas with prominent musicians and Bach experts such as Gustav Leonhardt and Sigiswald Kuijken, which garnered a lot of attention.
Dijkstra studied solo singing as well as choral and orchestral conducting at the Royal Conservatory of the Hague, the Cologne University of Music and Dance, and under Jorma Panula at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. He has also participated in masterclasses with conductors such as Tönu Kaljuste and Eric Ericson. During his years at university, he started working with professional ensembles while studying, and founded his own vocal ensemble, men’s chorus The Gents, in 1999. Between 2000 and 2001, Dijkstra was an Assistant Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Choir, and was regularly invited back there thereafter.
Dijkstra’s international career began in earnest when he was awarded the Kersjes van de Groenekan fund’s prize for young conductors in 2002, and the Eric Ericson award the following year. At the time, 25-year-old Dijkstra was working as a teacher at the conservatory in The Hague, from where he had previously graduated with a summa cum laude medal. At the final Berwaldhallen concert ahead of the first Eric Ericson Awards in 2003, Peter Dijkstra led the Swedish Radio Choir for the first time – but not the last. Having first been invited as a guest conductor, Dijkstra was appointed the Swedish Radio Choir’s Music Director in September, 2007. In the same year, he travelled, as a conductor, to South Africa and Namibia with the World Youth Choir.
When Dijkstra was awarded the prestigious Golden Violin in 2013, the jury called him ‘one of the world’s foremost choral conductors, in spite of his relatively young age’. His many awards and illustrious commissions confirm the jury’s words; in 2012, Dijkstra was elected member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, in 2014 he was awarded the Eugen Jochum Foundation’s prize for young and promising conductors, and in 2016, he was made Professor of choral conducting at the Cologne University of Music and Dance.
From 2005 to 2016, he was the Artistic Director of the Bavarian Radio Choir, which he developed into an internationally recognised ensemble. Its recording of Luigi Cherubini’s Missa Solemnis was nominated for a Grammy for best choral performance in 2008. The choir won the ECHO Klassik award twice: in 2012 for a recording of Fauré’s Requiem alongside the Munich Chamber Orchestra, and in 2014 for Alfred Schnittke’s Concerto for Choir. As the cherry on the cake, the choir was awarded the State of Bavaria’s Music Award in 2015, for its international success.
Dijkstra is a sought-after guest conductor by orchestras as well as choirs throughout Europe and the world. His engagements include the BBC Singers, RIAS Chamber Choir in Berlin, the Norwegian Soloists’ Choir, Collegium Vocale Gent, and the Danish National Choir. Among the orchestras, you’ll find the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, the Copenhagen Philharmonic, the Stavanger Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Hague Philharmonic, and earlier music ensembles such as Concerto Köln, Akademie für Alte Musik in Berlin, and baroque orchestra B’ROCK.
Having been First Guest Conductor since 2006, Dijkstra was appointed Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Chamber Choir in 2015, a post that had previously been held by Dijkstra’s teacher Tönu Kaljuste, among others. Dijkstra is also the Artistic Leader of vocal ensemble MUSA, and First Guest Conductor of men’s chorus The Gents, the ensemble he founded himself in 1999, and with which he has toured Japan, Spain, Sweden and more, and won several international awards.
Dijkstra has been the Swedish Radio Choir’s Music Director since 2007, and is engaged until 2018 at least. He has a special dedication to bringing professional musicians and young people and amateur musicians together, and he works with arts schools and El Sistema alongside the Radio Choir. In addition, he will be touring with the choir to Japan, Italy, and Oman, among others.
In a 2014 interview, Dijkstra stated that it’s dangerous to feel that all goals have been reached. ‘We must always carry on developing; the Radio Choir has to be a choir that clears the path, that is always on its way to new goals.’ An unusual but valuable and appreciated part of Dijkstra’s personality is his infectious warmth and joy. It’s important that the choir members enjoy themselves: ‘You can hear whether choir members are enjoying themselves or not.’ Both vocal and social harmony are necessary for a good result, and the singers speak of Dijkstra’s ability to make each and every one of them feel valued, and about an atmosphere that is focussed and unconcerned with prestige. The music is what matters.
"We must always carry on developing; the Radio Choir has to be a choir that clears the path, that is always on the way to new goals"
In another interview, he said that what attracts him, both as a choral leader and a choral singer, is the group process – an experience that stems from his first years in the Roden boys’ choir. Unlike many conductors who are attracted to the grandeur of the orchestra, to Dijkstra, the choir is still number one. ‘People say that they see the choir singer in me as a leader.’ Since he himself has studied song in addition to conducting, he has a good understanding of voices’ possibilities – and needs. ‘It’s important for singers’ bodies to be relaxed and free so they can breathe. I want to give them a sense of freedom, even if they don’t really have it. Letting them go – but keeping my hand underneath, just to be sure.’