Conductor Jaap van Zweden leads the Dallas Symphony at a Bravo! Vail concert.

(Photo: Zach Mahone)

Conductor Jaap van Zweden, who currently leads the Dallas Symphony, will be the next music director of the New York Philharmonic. His tenure begins in 2018, and he'll serve as Music Director Designate for the 2017-18 season, the Philharmonic announced Wednesday.

Van Zweden is familiar to Colorado audiences through Bravo! Vail, the summer classical music festival that hosts both the Dallas Symphony and New York Philharmonic each summer.

The Dallas Morning News notes the 55-year-old maestro came to the podium relatively late in his music career but has impressed listeners and critics alike:

Van Zweden, 55, was initially trained as a violinist in his native Amsterdam and at New York’s Juilliard School. He became sufficiently brilliant a player to be named the youngest-ever concertmaster of Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, where he played under the most famous conductors of the day.

He was a relatively late convert to conducting, but in 1997, after some initial experiences on the podium, he gave up playing the violin to devote himself full-time to conducting. Holding a couple of principal conductor positions in the Netherlands, he was little known beyond before his appointment in Dallas. Soon, however, he was conducting top orchestras on both sides of the Atlantic and garnering critical praise. He was named Musical America’s 2012 Conductor of the Year.

Van Zweden's work as a conductor began with an encounter with a legendary conductor, according to the New York Times:

It was a chance request from Leonard Bernstein that set him on a new path. In the late 1980s, the Concertgebouw Orchestra was on tour in Berlin, playing Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, when Mr. Bernstein, who was conducting, decided during a rehearsal that he wanted to hear the orchestra from the audience.

So he asked Mr. van Zweden to take over.

“I said, ‘But Maestro, I never conducted in my life a single note,’” Mr. van Zweden recalled. “He said, ‘That’s OK, just do it.’ To say no to him — that was, I would not say dangerous, but you just did not do that. So I did. And after that he said, ‘That was pretty bad — but I saw something there, and I would really like you to take it seriously.’”

A few years later, he did. He began studying conducting and, after being invited to lead a small Dutch orchestra, gave up the safe post of concertmaster — and the violin — at 36.

Now, van Zweden has the job Bernstein held from 1958-69 with the New York Philharmonic. He replaces outgoing Music Director Alan Gilbert.

Watch a clip of van Zweden and the Dallas Symphony playing Beethoven's "Fidelio" Overture at Bravo! Vail: