Rudolf Werthen is a well-known Belgian violinist and conductor, founder and director of the chamber orchestra I Fiamminghi.
As a violinist, he is considered an heir to the Belgian violin school, exemplified by the great virtuoso Eugéne Ÿsaye. His career began rapidly in 1971 when he won two major violin competitions, the first Kreisler Competition and the Queen Elisabeth of Belgium Competition, the most prestigious of all violin awards. Following these victories, the Belgian Government named him Virtuoso of the Belgian Government, a position previously held by the late Arthur Grumiaux.
In 1982, he began his conducting career by substituting for maestro Klaus Tennsted when the German conductor became indisposed while touring Europe with the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra.
In 1984, he co-founded I Fiamminghi as a string orchestra and has led it ever since. The orchestra concentrates on Romantic era and later repertory, and is especially known for his championing of the music of the post-serial era of such composers as Kancheli, Hovhaness, Vasks, and Pärt. Its Romantic era interpretations (from the times of Beethoven and Schubert to that of Mahler) are noted for Werthen's practice of researching scores and performance materials for authenticity and in using the playing techniques current when the particular composition was written.
I Fiamminghi was immediately successful, and during its first decade recorded for the SOF, RGIP, and Koch and BMG labels. In 1994, Werthen and I Fiamminghi signed an exclusive contract with the American label Telarc.
Werthen's success with I Fiamminghi led to his being appointed music director of the Flanders Opera in 1988, and his tenure has been especially praised for productions of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, Verdi's Macbeth, Rossini's La Cenerentola, Wagner's Flying Dutchman, and Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle.
In 1992, the Flemish government appointed him and I Fiamminghi as "Cultural Ambassador of Flanders," citing "the quality and international reputation of the orchestra." Also in 1992, Werthen enlarged I Fiamminghi to a full orchestra by adding winds and percussion.
Werthen is also a member of the faculty of the Royal Music Conservatory of Ghent, where he has taught since in 1975. He also devotes a significant part of his time to efforts on behalf of those who are disabled or in poverty, and in ecological concerns.