Sinfonia Viva Appoints New Principal Conductor

Dutch conductor Frank Zielhorst has been appointed as Principal Conductor of Sinfonia Viva - the East Midlands’ professional orchestra, based in Derby, which has celebrated its 35th anniversary this year.

Mr Zielhorst said he was relishing to take up the role with Sinfonia Viva and to programme a ‘menu of delights’ for orchestral concerts around the region. 

“I worked with the orchestra as guest conductor both at Derby Cathedral and at Derby Theatre for the ‘Mechanical Advantage’ education project performance in 2017 and was very impressed both with the quality of work and with the reception from the Derby audiences.

“Sinfonia Viva is one of the top regional orchestras with an amazing reputation. It is multi-talented orchestra with an excellent band of players, incredible versatility and a great management team to support the activities.

“Taking on the role as Principal Conductor gives me the opportunity to develop my artistic vision and to embed Viva even further into the artistic fabric of the city and region.

“The orchestra has a packed programme of high quality education and outreach work for which it has a well-deserved national reputation.

“My focus as Principal Conductor is to raise the identity of the orchestra on the concert platform to the highest possible level whilst nurturing that well-earned reputation for imaginative creative projects.

“I want to give more people greater opportunities to enjoy a wide range of classical music and particularly to reach out to people who have had limited chances to experience live classical music.”

Mr Zielhorst is a self-confessed ‘foodie’ and likened going to an orchestral concert to dining in a Michelin star restaurant.

“When you go to a fancy restaurant, you may not know what to expect and may not recognise the dishes on the menu but you trust the chef’s skills and impeccable taste to serve you something delicious.

“My aim is that audiences see Sinfonia Viva in the same light. A piece of music or a composer on the programme might be unknown to you, but you wouldn’t reject an exquisite six-course meal, because you don’t know a dish inside it.

“You trust that what the chef makes is going to be good and that he or she has put a lot of thought into how and why to combine certain ingredients and dishes.

“I want the audiences to trust me as they would trust a Michelin star chef. We are going to bring “Michelin-star-quality” programmes to Derby and East Midlands.

“I also want to challenge the view that people will only come to an orchestral music if they already know the music as I believe that, once that trust is built, audiences will be keen to broaden their concert experiences.

“My particular passion is to create a narrative through concerts and to take audiences on journeys throughout a season – creating different experiences with each performance complementing each other – again like the restaurant menu.

“My aim is therefore to bring high quality and well balanced musical menus with all sorts of different flavours and textures to Derby and the East Midlands.”

Mr Zielhorst comes from a family of church musicians and started his musical journey by playing the violin. He went to his first concert when he was nine-years-old and decided then that he wanted to be a conductor.

He studied orchestral conducting with Jac van Steen and Kenneth Montgomery at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague and is a laureate of the prestigious Kersjes Foundation conducting scholarship.

He moved to the UK three years ago and now lives on the outskirts of London with his Italian born partner.

He continued that joining Sinfonia Viva was akin to his love of being part of a community.

“I love being in the UK. It is a beautiful country with lovely people and great traditions. Although I am away from home, I am very much a family person and I particularly like to be part of a community of people.

“Derby will be my second home over the coming years and the orchestra my second family.

“I am looking forward to being part of the fabric of the city and the regional arts community and I plan to spend the coming months meeting as many people as I can to get under the skin of the city and region.”

Sinfonia Viva Chief Executive Peter Helps concluded: “We are delighted that Frank is joining the Orchestra as Principal Conductor.

“His commitment to every aspect of Viva’s work, combined with his ambition to be an integral part of the cultural life of this region is fantastic not just for us as an organisation but for the wider community.

“We, the players and management, have all enjoyed working with Frank tremendously over the past year and are looking forward to this new partnership with enthusiasm and excitement.”

Mr Zielhorst (32), who takes over the baton from Duncan Ward, will make his debut under his new role on February 6 at the culmination performance of the Orchestra’s education Spring residency at Derby Theatre followed by a concert at Derby Cathedral on March 14.

Mr Zielhorst has performed extensively at the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra as their Leverhulme Young Conductor in Association.

Amongst other orchestras he has worked with are the Ulster Orchestra, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, The Hague Philharmonic, the Philharmonie Zuidnederland and the Prague Symphony Orchestra as well as with leading opera companies across Europe.

Mr Zielhorst has a particular passion for education teaches at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague.  He also works regularly with youth orchestras such as the Ulster Youth Orchestra, the South West Youth Orchestra and the Athenaeum Chamber Orchestra in The Hague.

For information about Frank Zielhorst’s debut concerts with Sinfonia Viva, please visit

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