Two Guest Conductors for the Belgian National Orchestra: Michael Schønwandt and Roberto González-Monjas

We announced previously that Antony Hermus would take the Belgian National Orchestra under his wing for the next four seasons as Chief Conductor. The internationally-celebrated Dutch conductor succeeds our current Principal Conductor, Hugh Wolff, who has led the orchestra since 2017 and will be our conductor emeritus from 22-23. Now we have also taken on two Guest Conductors: Michael Schønwandt (Associate Conductor) and Roberto González-Monjas (Principal Guest Conductor).

“Polyphony and flexibility are key words for the future. I am pleased to announce not one but two guest conductors, each with a radically different profile.

Many years of expertise, a well-known name, a historical link with Belgium and, artistically speaking, the very finest quality can be found in the Danish conductor Michael Schønwandt.

The Spanish rising star conductor and former leader of one of Europe's foremost symphonic orchestras (Orchestra of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia), Roberto González-Monjas is an exceptional talent who inspires with rich orchestral expertise, deep musicality and unique outlook.

With both first guest conductors, Antony Hermus as chief conductor and Hugh Wolff as conductor emeritus, the Belgian National Orchestra will have, starting next season, a unique musical leadership that combines experience, drive and youthful individuality.”

Hans Waege, intendant

Michael Schønwandt was the Principal Guest Conductor of the La Monnaie opera house in the 1980s, had directed the Danish Royal Orchestra (the orchestra of the Copenhagen opera) for ten years at the turn of the millennium, and is currently Music Director at the National Opera and Orchestra of Montpellier. He was also the Chief Conductor of the Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester from 1992-1998. He first conducted the Belgian National Orchestra in 1990 and has returned regularly as a welcome guest ever since. Recently, he conducted Carl Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4 and Grieg’s Piano Concerto with Khatia Buniatishvili (October 2019). His last Brussels concert was the prelude to the National Holiday (July 2020). Michael Schønwandt has conducted most major symphony orchestras and is also a sought-after opera conductor. Starting from the 22-23 season, he will be the Associate Conductor of the Belgian National Orchestra.

"I have had the privilege of performing with the Belgian National Orchestra on numerous occasions over the past years and have always been deeply inspired by its high quality and motivation, eager to meet its audience with exciting programmes - truly an orchestra for the world of today and tomorrow. It is therefore with great pleasure and pride that I have accepted to be associated with the Belgian National Orchestra as its Associate Conductor."

The 33- years old Roberto González-Monjas is a versatile, passionate, inspirational and dynamic conductor who, in the past years, has made significant conducting and play-directing debuts stirring significant interest amongst European orchestras such as, among others, Mozarteumorchester Salzburg, Camerata Salzburg, Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine, Orchestre national d'Île-de-France, Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia, Castilla y León Symphony Orchestra and Lahti Symphony. Roberto is currently in his third year as a Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of Dalasinfoniettan in Sweden and from the 2021/22 season, he is the Chief Conductor of the Swiss Musikkollegium Winterthur. Roberto began his career as a solo violinist and a leader and as such collaborates with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Berlin Baroque Soloists appearing in Salzburg, Grafenegg, Lucerne, Verbier and Lockenhaus Festivals. He led the Belgian National Orchestra twice last season: once in September with Schumann’s Cello Concerto (with Victor Julien-Laferrière) and Haydn’s Drum Roll Symphony, and in December with Dvořák’s Violin Concerto (with Arabella Steinbacher) and Symphony No. 7. Both concerts were a resounding success and left audiences hungry for more. Starting from the 22-23 season, Roberto González-Monjas will spend four seasons as the Principal Guest Conductor of the Belgian National Orchestra. His repertoire will primarily focus to the early Classical and early Romantic periods, combined with 20th-century and contemporary works.

"I am truly excited to become Principal Guest Conductor of the Belgian National Orchestra! During the last season I had the chance to work intensively with this wonderful ensemble; in a time dominated by Covid-19 restrictions, I was lucky to get to know a resilient, strong, hard-working orchestra, ready to take on challenges and full of brilliant players. I very much look forward to the many exciting projects ahead of us and can’t wait to be making music together again soon!"

On 24 September, you can hear our future Principal Conductor Antony Hermus at work at Bozar. He will lead the Belgian National Orchestra in the performance of a symphonic compilation of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. The Belgian saxophonist Simon Diricq will also perform solo in the Concertino da camera by Jacques Ibert.