The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is one of the very best orchestras in the world. Time and time again, critics have lauded its unique sound. The RCO’s string section has been called ‘velvety’, the sound of the brass ‘golden’, the timbre of the woodwinds ‘distinctly personal’ and the percussion have an international reputation. The exceptional acoustics of the Concertgebouw play an important role in this respect. Equally important is the quality of the musicians themselves and the influence exerted on the orchestra by its six chief conductors: Willem Kes (1888-1895), Willem Mengelberg (1895–1945), Eduard van Beinum (1945–1959), Bernard Haitink (1963–1988), Riccardo Chailly (1988–2004) and Mariss Jansons (2004–2015). With effect from the 2016/2017 season, Daniele Gatti will assume the post of chief conductor. Leading composers such as Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss conducted the orchestra on more than one occasion. The orchestra still regularly collaborates with contemporary composers, including its three house composers, Michel van der Aa, Detlev Glanert and Richard Rijnvos.
In addition to some eighty concerts performed at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra gives forty concerts at leading concert halls throughout the world each year. The orchestra has made over 1,100 LP, CD and DVD recordings to date, many of which have won international distinctions. Since 2004, the Concertgebouw Orchestra boasts its own in-house label, RCO Live.
In celebration of its 125th anniversary, in 2013 the orchestra undertook a world tour, visiting six continents in a single year. Between 2016 and 2018, all 28 member states of the European Union will be visited: RCO meets Europe. In each EU country the RCO performs at least one work together with a local youth orchestra (Side by Side).