Frans Brüggen

Dutch Flautist and Conductor (Amsterdam, 30th October 1934 – Amsterdam, 13th August 2014)

Flautist and Conductor Frans Brüggen is internationally renowned, not only as the first virtuoso recorder player but also as one of the key figures in the renaissance of 17th and 18th-century Baroque music.

Frans Brüggen studied the recorder with Kees Otten, and flute at the Muzieklyceum in Amsterdam. He also took courses in musicology at the University of Amsterdam, alongside his instrumental studies. At the age of 21 he was made Professor of Flute at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, a role he kept until 1970. 

He went on to write a manifesto on recorders and make his first recordings. In 1972 and 1973 Brüggen gave his first classes at Harvard and Berkeley universities. 

Frans Brüggen enlarged the repertoire for recorder and recreated old instruments. He founded the recorder trio Sour Cream with Kess Boeake and Walter Hauwe, then, finding that the large stages were still closed to him, created the Brüggen-Consort and then in 1981 the Orchestra of the 18th Century. This orchestra was peculiar as it was not permanent, the members would only come together a few times a year to play and record and then would leave for other work until the next session. Frans Brüggen extended the use of period instruments from Bach to the beginning of the 19th century, collaborating with John Eliott Gardiner and Nikolaus Harnoncourt amongst others. 

Frans Brüggen was also the Artistic Director of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, in Hilversum, from 1991 to 1994 and then again between 2001 and 2005. He acted as guest conductor for several orchestras, notably the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (London), the Orchestre de Paris, the English Chamber Orchestra, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

His teacher, harpsichordist and conductor, Gustav Leonhardt was one of his closest chamber music collaborators. 

Brüggen held his mouth at a strange angle, as he often played sitting down with his legs nonchalantly crossed, yet he created an astonishing quality of sound. His rhythmic flexibility and virtuosic technique inspired composers such as Leo Brouwer and Louis Andriessen. Luciano Berio dedicated his piece Gesti to Frans Brüggen, telling him that he was “not an archaeologist but a great artist”. 

Six Landmark Dates in the Life of Frans Brüggen

1955: Appointed professor at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. 

1977: Founded the recorder trio Sour Cream 

1981: Founded the Orchestra of the 18th Century

2010: Received The Honorary medal for the Arts and Sciences of the Order of the House of Orange from Queen Beatrix 

2011: Conducted the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra and the Radio France Choir for a programme of Joseph Haydn, on January 15th.