Conductor Jan Willem de Vriend is equally well known as a historical performance specialist and conductor of modern symphonic ensembles. He founded and for many years led the Combattimento Consort Amsterdam, an important early music group.
De Vriend was born in Leiden on July 31, 1962. He attended the Amsterdam Conservatory and the Royal Conservatory in The Hague and began his career early as he conducted performances of Johann Strauss II's Die Fledermaus and Kurt Weill's Der Silbersee while he was still a student. In 1982, de Vriend founded the Combattimento Consort Amsterdam, performing on violin with the group and remaining its director until 2015. The Combattimento Consort Amsterdam specialized in music of the 17th and 18th centuries, and it revived unusual operas by the likes of Rameau, Haydn, and Florian Gassmann. Touring widely and frequently recording with the ensemble, de Vriend became known as one of the Netherlands' leading historical performance specialists. His interest in authentic performance extended to music of the Romantic era, and as the conductor of the Orkest van het Oosten (later renamed the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra) from 2006 to 2017, he led performances of works as late as Mahler's symphonies with period instruments and ensemble sounds.
In the mid-2010s, de Vriend retired from the Combattimento Consort and began to devote full time to conducting. From 2015 to 2019, he served as the conductor of the Residentie Orkest in The Hague, and, beginning in 2015, he was the principal guest conductor of the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra. In 2018, he added a similar post at the Orchestre National de Lille in France to his responsibilities, and he has also served as the principal guest conductor of the Stuttgart Philharmonic. He has also performed often with major Dutch orchestras, including the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Limburg Symphony, and the Brabant Orchestra, as well as foreign groups such as the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester in Hamburg, the Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg, and the SWR Symphonieorchester in Stuttgart.
De Vriend has a large catalog of recordings as a conductor, much of it with the Combattimento Consort Amsterdam and Netherlands Symphony Orchestra; with the latter group, he recorded a complete cycle of Beethoven symphonies in period style. He has recorded for Challenge Classics, Channel Classics, and NM Classics, among other labels. In 2019, with the Residentie Orkest, he began a complete cycle of the symphonies of Schubert.