The Orchestra's first conductor was Willem Kes, who enforced a common etiquette on Dutch audiences previously unobserved: eating, late arrivals, and talking during performance were banned. Kes built the orchestra into a fine one, even if it still fell short of world-class caliber. Upon Kes' departure in 1895, the legendary Willem Mengelberg
was appointed music director. He would serve for nearly 50 years in that capacity, molding the orchestra into a first-rate ensemble and making many famous recordings with the group.
During World War II, Mengelberg
sided with the Nazis, and after 1945 was banned from conducting the ensemble for six years. That same year Eduard van Beinum
was appointed his successor. He broadened the repertory and maintained the orchestra's high performance standards during his 14 years on the podium. He died in 1959 during a rehearsal, and for the next four years, leadership of the orchestra was shared by Eugen Jochum
and Bernard Haitink
was appointed chief conductor in 1963 and served in that capacity until 1988. During his tenure, the orchestra made numerous highly acclaimed tours and recordings.
's successor was Riccardo Chailly
, who further broadened the repertory of the orchestra, and like his predecessors, produced a spate of critically acclaimed recordings. In 2004, Mariss Jansons
was appointed conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Today the ensemble consists of 120 players and is widely considered one of the finest orchestras in the world.