In Memoriam: Kenneth Montgomery

6 March 2023

Photo: Annelies van der Vegt

It is with great sadness that we have learned of the passing of conductor Kenneth Montgomery on 5 March at the age of 79. Kenneth Montgomery was the main subject teacher at the National Master Orchestral Conducting programme and conducted a triple bill of Arianna a Naxos and L’isola disabitata by Haydn and What Price Confidence by Krenek at the Dutch National Opera Academy in January of this year. It was the first time he had conducted a Haydn opera. "I have to do it before it's too late," he said in an interview with the Volkskrant on January 16, 2023.

Kenneth Montgomery (Belfast, 1943) began his professional career with the Glyndebourne Festival Opera and The English National Opera. He made his debut at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in 1973. During his rich and varied career, he conducted many operas for Nederlandse omroep, from Gluck, Donizetti, and Rossini to Britten and Peter Schat. In addition, he served as a guest conductor at opera houses in the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Italy, the United States, Canada, and Australia. He was also the chief conductor of the Radio Symfonieorkest and the Groot Omroepkoor for fifteen years, bringing a diverse repertoire to the stage, including Stravinsky, Sibelius, Mozart, Beethoven, Rachmaninov, and works by numerous Dutch composers, including Van Vlijmen and De Vries.

Together with Frans de Ruiter, Kenneth Montgomery founded the Dutch National Opera Academy (DNOA). With Ed Spanjaard and Jac van Steen, he established the prestigious National Master Orchestral Conducting program (NMO), which the Royal Conservatoire of The Hague and the Conservatory of Amsterdam jointly offers. His vast erudition during these programs inspired Kenneth Montgomery’s many students. Ryan Bancroft, Manoj Kamps, and Chloe Rooke are just a few of the students he taught.

Former Director of the Royal Conservatoire Henk van der Meulen said, "Kenneth Montgomery was a consummate musician. In his approach, he combined openness and spontaneity with his vast international experience and impressive knowledge and authority while displaying charm and humour. But above all, he imparted his great love for music to the performers and students."

In the last ten years, Kenneth conducted tours with the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century with great pleasure and élan. Triumphs were celebrated under Kenneth's leadership in a series of semi-concertante Mozart operas. In 2017, he also led the Side by Side project, in which students of Early Music from the Royal Conservatoire played with the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century.

Kenneth Montgomery was appointed OBE (Officer in the Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 2010.

The Royal Conservatoire owes a great debt to Kenneth Montgomery. We wish his spouse Jan van Dooren and his loved ones much strength in coping with this great loss.

The memorial will take place in a private setting.

Lies Colman