Theo Olof, the former co-concertmaster of The Hague Philharmonic
and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, has died at the age of
Born in Bonn in 1924, he fled Nazi Germany for the Netherlands in 1933, and began studying with Oskar Back. In 1935 he made his debut with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under Bruno Walter and in 1951 he won fourth prize at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels. In the same year he was appointed co-concertmaster of The Hague Philharmonic, where he shared leadership duties with Herman Krebbers, who had also studied with Back.
From 1974 to 1985 Olof was co-concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebow Orchestra. He retired from professional performance in 1994.
During his orchestral career he was offered concertmaster positions abroad â€“ with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London under Otto Klemperer, and with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy. He explained in an interview for The Strad this year (The Art of Leadership, August) why he turned the latter offer down. 'The money was much more than our salary in Europe â€“ but I relished the free time I had in my role as co-concertmaster. Also, there's a feeling that the concertmaster is an important spokesperson, not only for the orchestra by also for music in one's country and even beyond.'
In the same interview, Olof defined the leader's job in an orchestra as 'a go-between, a resourceful diplomat who's responsible for translating the conductor's gestures into comprehensible musical actions. They must not only know the score but also ensure that the conductor's interpretation makes sense to the orchestra.' He added: 'I certainly think my time as a solo violinist informed my approach to the role, since soloists are all too familiar with the stress of responsibility.'