Haitink was born in Amsterdam, the son of Willem Haitink, a civil servant who was to become director of the Dutch electricity board, and Anna Haitink, who worked for Alliance Française. He studied music at the conservatoire in Amsterdam. He played the violin in orchestras before taking courses in conducting under Ferdinand Leitner in 1954 and 1955.
Haitink conducted his first concert on 19 July 1954 with the Netherlands Radio Union Orchestra (later the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic [RFO]). He became second conductor of the orchestra in 1955, and chief conductor of the orchestra in 1957. His conducting debut with the Concertgebouw Orchestra was on 7 November 1956, substituting for Carlo Maria Giulini. After the sudden death of Eduard van Beinum, Haitink was named first conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra on 1 September 1959. He became principal conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1961, and shared that position jointly with Eugen Jochum until 1963, when Haitink became sole principal conductor. With the Concertgebouw Orchestra, Haitink made many recordings for the Philips label, and later Decca and EMI Classics, and toured widely with the orchestra.
In the early 1980s, Haitink threatened to resign his Concertgebouw post in protest at threatened reductions to its subsidy from the Dutch government, which could potentially have led to the dismissal of 23 musicians from the orchestra. The financial situation was eventually settled, and Haitink remained as chief conductor until 1988. In 1999, he was named the honorary conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. In December 2012, following his advocacy for the RFO in the wake of proposed budget cuts to the orchestra and Dutch music in general, Haitink accepted the title of patron of the RFO.
Outside of the Netherlands, Haitink was principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra from 1967 to 1979. Haitink also served as the music director at Glyndebourne Opera from 1978 to 1988. He was music director of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden from 1987 to 2002, where he was praised for his musicianship, but received criticism for his degree of attachment to the entire organisation.
From 2002 to 2004, Haitink was chief conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden. His original contract with Dresden was through 2006, but Haitink resigned in 2004 over disputes with the Staatskapelle's Intendant, Gerd Uecker, on the orchestra's choice of successor.
Haitink served as principal guest conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1995 to 2004, when he took on the new title of conductor emeritus. In addition, he has appeared with l'Orchestre National de France and the London Symphony Orchestra. In the early 2000s, he recorded the complete Beethoven and Brahms symphony cycles with the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) for the LSO Live label. Haitink is an honorary member of the Berlin Philharmonic.
In April 2006, after an acclaimed two-week engagement in March 2006 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), the CSO appointed Haitink to the newly created position of principal conductor, effective as of the 2006–2007 season. The duration of the contract was four years. Haitink had declined an offer from the CSO to be music director, citing his age. With respect to this contract, Haitink stated that "every conductor, including myself, has a sell-by date." He concluded his Chicago principal conductorship in June 2010 with a series of concerts of the complete Beethoven symphonies and being awarded the Theodore Thomas Medallion by the orchestra.
Haitink has conducted and recorded a wide variety of repertoire, with the complete symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Bruckner, Mahler, Shostakovich and Vaughan Williams, and the complete piano concertos of Beethoven and Brahms with Claudio Arrau notable among his recordings. Haitink has made many recordings for several labels, including Philips Records, EMI Classics, Columbia Records, LSO Live, RCO Live, and CSO Resound. Other recordings include the complete orchestral works of Debussy, the two symphonies of Elgar, the three Mozart/Da Ponte operas, and Wagner's complete opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen.
Haitink formally stated in a 2004 article that he would no longer conduct opera, but he made exceptions in 2007, directing three performances of Parsifal in Zurich in March and April and five of Pelléas et Mélisande in Paris (Théâtre des Champs-Élysées) in June. He stated in 2004 that he did not plan to conduct again at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden. However, an April 2007 announcement stated that Haitink would return to the Royal Opera in December 2007, with the same Zurich production of Parsifal, and he fulfilled this engagement.
On his 85th birthday, Haiting announced that he had been 'humiliated' and 'ignored' by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and would not conduct them again.
Haitink has five children from his first marriage to Marjolein Snijder. He and his fourth wife, the former Patricia Bloomfield, a barrister and past viola player in the Covent Garden Opera orchestra, reside in Lucerne, Switzerland.
Awards and honours
- Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (UK, 1977)
- Honorary medal for Arts and Science of the Order of the House of Orange (Netherlands, 2000)
- Honorary Companion of Honour (UK, 2002)
- Award Vereniging van Schouwburg- en Concertgebouwdirecties (Netherlands, 2007)
- Musical America "Musician of the Year" (USA, 2007)
- Grammy Awards (USA, 2003 and 2008)
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,
- Bruckner: Symphonies 00-9 (Philips)
- Debussy: Orchestral Works (Philips, 1976–79)
- Mahler: Symphonies 1-9 (Philips)
- Mahler: Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection", Elly Ameling, Aafje Heynis, Netherlands Radio Chorus, (Philips 1968).
- Ravel: Orchestral Works (Philips 1971-77)
- Tchaikovsky: Symphonies 4, 5 & 6. (Philips, 1979)
- Shostakovich: Symphony no.15 (RCO live 2012).
Boston Symphony Orchestra:
- Brahms: Symphony No. 1, Nanie with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus (Philips, 1994)
- Brahms: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Tragic Overture (Philips, 1990)
- Brahms: Symphony No. 3, Alto Rhapsody with Jard Van Nes with the men of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus (Philips, 1993)
- Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Haydn Variations (Philips, 1992)
- Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2, with Emanuel Ax (Sony, 1997)
- Ravel: Daphnis and Chloe with Tanglewood Festival Chorus (Philips, 1989)
- Ravel: Ma Mere l'Oye, Menuet antique, Rapsodie espagnole, La Valse (Philips, 1995)
- Ravel: Alborada del Gracioso, Bolero, Le tombeau de Couperin, Valses nobles et sentimentales (Philips, 1996)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra:
- Mahler, Symphony No. 2 (2009)
- Mahler: Symphony No. 3 (2007)
- Mahler: Symphony No. 6 (2008)
- Shostakovich: Symphony No. 4 (2008)
- Richard Strauss: Ein Heldenleben (with Anton Webern: Im Sommerwind)  (2010)
- Nicholas Wroe (2000-10-14). "Master of the House". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-04-21.
- "Haitink patron of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra" (Press release). Radio Filharmonisch Orkest. 20 December 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
- "The Diffident Dutchman". Time. 12 May 1967. Retrieved 2007-07-13.
- The orchestra's own website gives 1963 as the date when Haitink became sole principal conductor.
- James R. Oestreich (10 March 2002). "An Eminently Rational Man In an Irrational Profession". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-30.
- Nicholas Kenyon (1991-06-02). "For a Reluctant Maestro, Relief, No Regrets, in Berlin". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-06.
- Andrew Clements (2002-06-21). "A great musician – but that was not enough". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-04-21.
- Andrew Clark (2004-10-22). "Bernard Haitink: unfinished symphony". Financial Times. Retrieved 2007-05-05.
- Andrew Patner (2006-10-15). "Symphony in good hands". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2007-04-21.
- Daniel J. Wakin, (2006-04-28). "Arts, Briefly; Chicago Symphony: Conductors but No Music Director". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-04-21.
- Geoffrey Norris (2008-04-09). "Bernard Haitink: I love power without responsibility". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-09-10.
- James R. Oestreich (2006-10-06). "A Jet-Setting Maestro Sets a Brisker Pace for Beethoven". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-04-21.
- Andrew Patner (2010-06-19). "Haitink wraps up CSO tenure with revealing Beethoven's Ninth". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2010-07-02.
- "CSO Principal Conductor Bernard Haitink Receives Theodore Thomas Medallion for Distinguished Service" (Press release). Chicago Symphony Orchestra. 21 June 2010. Retrieved 02-07-2010.
- Anderson, Robert; Mahler; Soloists; Choirs; Orchestra, Concertgebouw; Haitink (1973). "Mahler: The Complete Symphonies". Musical Times (Musical Times Publications Ltd.) 114 (1560): 152. doi:10.2307/957200. JSTOR 957200.
- Martin Kettle (2004-03-05). "I started far too young. I still have sleepless nights ...". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-04-21.
- "Breaking News: Next Royal Opera Season Promises Minotaur Premiere, New Salome, Voigt as Ariadne" (Press release). Opera News. 10 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-23.
- Erica Jeal (2007-12-08). "Parsifal (Royal Opera House, London)". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-01-06.
- Tom Service (2009-09-22). "The passion and pain of Bernard Haitink". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-07-02.
- "Queen honours conductor Haitink". BBC news. 2002-07-09. Retrieved 2007-04-21.
- Fiona Maddocks (2009-12-13). "Mahler Symphony No 2: Chicago Symphony/Haitink". The Observer. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
- "Chicago Symphony Orchestra Announces Major Radio And Recording Initiatives". Chicago Symphony Orchestra. 2006-11-30.
- John von Rhein (2006-10-20). "Haitink, CSO make magic with Mahler". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2007-04-21.
- Andrew Clements (2008-04-25). "Mahler: Symphony No 6, Chicago Symphony Orch/ Haitink". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
- Andrew Clements (2008-08-22). "Classical review: Shostakovich: Symphony No 10, LPO/Haitink; Symphony No 4, Chicago SO/Haitink". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
- Andrew Clements (2010-06-17). "Strauss: Ein Heldenleben; Webern: Im Sommerwind". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bernard Haitink.|
- Bernard Haitink at AllMusic
- Bernard Haitink biography, Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest website(idle)
- Bernard Haitink biography at the Chicago Symphony
- Bernard Haitink interview by Bruce Duffie, January 13, 1997
Paul van Kempen
|Principal Conductor, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
|Music Director, Glyndebourne Opera Festival
|Music Director, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Daniel Barenboim (music director)
|Principal Conductor, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Riccardo Muti (music director)