Kees Bakels has held numerous titled positions with major orchestras including Music Director of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO). Appointed to that position in 1997, he was the central artistic force behind the creation of the MPO, from the auditioning of the musicians leading up to its first rehearsals and inaugural concert which he conducted at Dewan Filharmonik PETRONAS on 17 August 1998. Other positions have included Principal Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor and Artistic Adviser of the Quebec Symphony Orchestra, and Chief Guest Conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. He has conducted all major Dutch orchestras, as well as orchestras in Europe, the USA, Australia and Japan.
Bakels was born in Amsterdam and began his musical career as a violinist. He studied conducting at the Amsterdam Conservatoire and the Academy Chigiana in Siena. During his studies, he became Assistant Conductor of the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and held the position of Associate Conductor. He also became Principal Guest Conductor of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, which he took to festivals in England, Finland, Belgium, Spain and the USA.
From the beginning of his career, Bakels has concentrated as much on opera as on symphonic repertoire and has regularly appeared with the Netherlands Opera and the Vancouver Opera. In the UK, he has conducted new productions of Aïda and Fidelio at the English National Opera and La Bohème and Carmen at the Welsh National Opera. He has conducted concert performances of opera for the VARA Matinee Series at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam for over 25 years. He has championed the lesser-known operas of composers such as Mascagni’s Zanetto, Amica, Il Piccolo Marat, Isabeau, Iris and Nerone, and Leoncavello’s La Bohème, Edipo Re and Zaza.
Guest conducting engagements include the Quebec and Victoria Symphonies, Royal Danish Philharmonic, Netherlands Radio Symphony and KBS Symphony Orchestras, and a recording with the Tapiola Sinfonietta and Jean-Jacques Kantorow. In France, he has worked with the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris and Orchestre National de Lille.
Bakels’ recordings include with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (Naxos), Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra (NM Classics), Netherlands Chamber Orchestra (Denon), Philharmonia Orchestra (ASV), MPO (BIS), Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra and London Symphony Orchestra.