Kees Bakels was born in Amsterdam and began his musical career as a violinist. He later studied conducting at the Amsterdam Conservatoire and at the Academy Chigiana in Siena. During his studies he became Assistant Conductor of the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and subsequently held the position of Associate Conductor with that orchestra. At that time he also became Principal Guest Conductor of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra which he took to festivals in England, Finland, Belgium and Spain and on a coast-to-coast tour of the USA.
Kees Bakels has also held numerous other titled positions with major orchestras, including the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) where he was Music Director from its inception in1997 to the end of the 2004/05 season. He was the central artistic force behind the creation of the Orchestra and conducted the inaugural concerts at the newly built PETRONAS Hall in Kuala Lumpur. He was Chief Guest Conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for 10 years until 1999 and still works with the orchestra each season.
Kees Bakels has conducted all the major Dutch orchestras, including the Netherlands Philharmonic, Het Brabants, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and others.
From the beginning of his career, Kees Bakels has concentrated as much on opera as on symphonic repertoire and has regularly appeared with the Netherlands and the Vancouver Operas. In the UK he has conducted new productions of Aïda and Fidelio with English National Opera and La Bohème and Carmen for Welsh National Opera. He conducted concert performances of opera for the famous VARA Matinee Series at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam regularly over 25 years.
Kees Bakels’ recordings include the complete Vaughan Williams symphonies, the complete Nielsen Concerti with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for Naxos, and four recordings with the Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra for NM Classics. Kees Bakels’ recording of Saint-Saëns’ Violin Concerto with Jean-Jacques Kantorow and the Tapiola Sinfonietta was nominated in the orchestral category of the BBC Music Magazine Awards. The magazine stated that, “this is a disc of pure delight with stunning performances of a marvellous programme.”