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Bernard Haitink

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Bernard Haitink
Haitink in 1984
Bernard Johan Herman Haitink

(1929-03-04)4 March 1929
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Died21 October 2021(2021-10-21) (aged 92)
London, England
  • Conductor
  • classical violinist

Bernard Johan Herman Haitink CH KBE (Dutch: [ˈbɛrnɑrt ˈɦaːitɪŋk]; 4 March 1929 – 21 October 2021) was a Dutch conductor and violinist. He was the principal conductor of several international orchestras, beginning with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1961. He moved to London, as principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra from 1967 to 1979, music director at Glyndebourne Opera from 1978 to 1988 and of the Royal Opera House from 1987 to 2002, when he became principal conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden. Finally, he was principal conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 2006 to 2010. The focus of his prolific recording was classical symphonies and orchestral works, but he also conducted operas. He conducted 90 concerts at The Proms in London,[1] the last on 3 September 2019 with the Vienna Philharmonic. His awards include Grammy Awards and the 2015 Gramophone Award for his lifetime achievements.

Early life[edit]

Haitink was born on 4 March 1929 in Amsterdam,[2] the son of Willem Haitink, a civil servant who later became director of the Amsterdam electricity board, and Anna Clara (Verschaffelt), who worked for Alliance française.[3] His maternal grandmother was Jewish, and left the country during World War II.[4] He studied the violin and conducting, with Felix Hupka,[5] who conducted the school's orchestra,[6] at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. He then played the violin in orchestras before taking courses in conducting under Ferdinand Leitner in 1954 and 1955.[7]


Haitink in 1959

Haitink conducted his first concert on 19 July 1954 with the Netherlands Radio Union Orchestra (later the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra [RFO]).[8] He became second conductor of the orchestra in 1955 and chief conductor in 1957. His conducting debut with the Concertgebouw Orchestra was on 7 November 1956, substituting for Carlo Maria Giulini.[9] After the sudden death of Eduard van Beinum, Haitink was named first conductor of the Concertgebouw on 1 September 1959. He became principal conductor in 1961, sharing that position with Eugen Jochum until 1963, when Haitink became sole principal conductor.[10] With the Concertgebouw Orchestra, Haitink made many recordings for the Philips label, and later for Decca and EMI Classics. He toured widely with the orchestra.[11]

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 have led to the dismissal of 23 musicians from the orchestra. The financial situation was eventually settled,[12] and Haitink remained 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.[8] In March 2014, Haitink told the Dutch newspaper Het Parool that he wished to renounce the title of RCO conductor laureate and to no longer guest-conduct the orchestra in protest of the orchestra's administrative management.[13] In September 2015, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra announced a rapprochement with Haitink, with a scheduled guest-conducting engagement with the orchestra in the 2016–17 season.[14][15]

Haitink was principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra from 1967 to 1979. He was also music director at Glyndebourne Opera in England from 1978 to 1988.[16] He was music director of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, from 1987 to 2002, where his musicianship was praised, though he also received criticism for his degree of attachment to the organisation as a whole.[17][18]

From 2002 to 2004, Haitink was chief conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden. His original contract with Dresden ran to 2006, but he resigned in 2004 over disputes with the Staatskapelle's Intendant, Gerd Uecker, over the orchestra's choice of successor.[19]

At the Barbican Centre in London with the London Symphony Orchestra, 2011

Haitink was principal guest conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1995 to 2004, when he took on the new title of conductor emeritus.[20] In addition, he appeared with l'Orchestre National de France[21] and the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO). In the early 2000s, he recorded the complete Beethoven and Brahms symphony cycles with the LSO for the LSO Live label.[22] Haitink was an honorary member of the Berlin Philharmonic.[23]

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 from the 2006–07 season.[16][24] The contract's duration was four years.[25] Haitink had declined the CSO's offer to be music director, citing his age.[26] Of this contract, Haitink said, "every conductor, including myself, has a sell-by date."[27] He concluded his Chicago principal conductorship in June 2010 with a series of concerts of the complete Beethoven symphonies[28] and was awarded the Theodore Thomas Medallion by the orchestra.[29]

In 2004, Haitink said he would no longer conduct opera, but he made exceptions in 2007, directing three performances of Parsifal in Zürich in March and April and five of Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande in Paris (Théâtre des Champs-Élysées) in June. Also in 2004 he said he did not plan to conduct again at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden,[30] but he returned to the Royal Opera in December 2007, with the same Zurich production of Parsifal.[31][32]

Haitink led master classes for young conductors in Lucerne for several years.[33] In June 2015, the European Union Youth Orchestra announced his appointment as its conductor laureate, effective immediately.[34]

In June 2019, Haitink said in an interview with the Dutch daily De Volkskrant that his final concert as conductor was to be in September 2019, formalising his previously announced sabbatical into retirement.[35] His final concert with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra was on 15 June 2019.[36] His final UK concert was at The Proms in London on 3 September, 2019, with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.[37] His last concert was in Lucerne at the KKL on 6 September 2019, with the Vienna Philharmonic.[38]

Personal life[edit]

Haitink had five children with Marjolein Snijder, his first wife.[3] Their marriage ended in the 1970s. Two further marriages, both to musicians, also ended in divorce.[3] In 1994 Haitink married his fourth wife, Patricia (née Bloomfield), a barrister who was formerly a viola player in the orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.[39] They lived in West London.[3][40][41]

In 2019, Bärenreiter published the book Dirigieren ist ein Rätsel (Conducting is a Mystery), a collaboration between Haitink and the journalists Peter Hagmann and Erich Singer that includes personal reflections by Haitink on his life and career.[42]

Haitink died on 21 October 2021, aged 92, at his home in London.[2][43][44]

Awards and honours[edit]


Music industry and cultural[edit]


Haitink recorded with several orchestras, including the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra and Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. He focused on classical symphonies and other orchestral works, conducting cycles of the complete symphonies by Beethoven,[44] Brahms,[44] Tchaikovsky, Bruckner, Mahler, Vaughan Williams[11] and Shostakovich.[57] Haitink recorded the complete five piano concertos of Beethoven and the two piano concertos by Brahms with Claudio Arrau.[58] Other recordings include the complete orchestral works of Debussy, and the two symphonies of Elgar.[44] In the field of opera, he conducted the three Mozart/Da Ponte operas,[11][59][60][61] and Wagner's Tannhäuser[62] and Der Ring des Nibelungen.[44]


  1. ^ "Bernard Haitink: 50 years at the BBC Proms". BBC. Retrieved 25 January 2023.
  2. ^ a b Schweitzer, Vivien (21 October 2021). "Bernard Haitink, Conductor Who Let Music Speak for Itself, Dies at 92". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 22 October 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d Wroe, Nicholas (14 October 2000). "Master of the House". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 April 2007.
  4. ^ "Bernard Haitink: A Personal Approach". The Juilliard Journal. October 2009. Retrieved 30 December 2021.
  5. ^ "Schenker Documents Online". Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  6. ^ Geoffrey Norris (9 March 2004). "It was all egos". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  7. ^ Ferdinand Leitner britannica.com
  8. ^ a b "Haitink patron of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra" (Press release). Radio Filharmonisch Orkest. 20 December 2012. Archived from the original on 6 August 2013. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  9. ^ "The Diffident Dutchman". Time. 12 May 1967. Archived from the original on 15 December 2008. Retrieved 13 July 2007.
  10. ^ The orchestra's own website gives 1963 as the date when Haitink became sole principal conductor.
  11. ^ a b c d e Patmore, David. "Bernard Haitink". Naxos Records. Retrieved 22 October 2021.
  12. ^ James R. Oestreich (10 March 2002). "An Eminently Rational Man in an Irrational Profession". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 October 2007.
  13. ^ "Haitink nooit meer bij Concertgebouworkest". Het Parool, 4 March 2014, (in Dutch)
  14. ^ "Press Statement – Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Bernard Haitink" (Press release). Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. 2 September 2015. Archived from the original on 18 October 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  15. ^ Guido van Oorschot (3 September 2015). "Concertgebouw toont zich de wijste in kwestie-Haitink". De Volksrant (in Dutch). Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  16. ^ a b Brug, Manuel (22 October 2021). "Der reservierte Holländer". Die Welt. Retrieved 22 October 2021.
  17. ^ Nicholas Kenyon (2 June 1991). "For a Reluctant Maestro, Relief, No Regrets, in Berlin". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 January 2008.
  18. ^ Andrew Clements (21 June 2002). "A great musician – but that was not enough". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 April 2007.
  19. ^ Andrew Clark (22 October 2004). "Bernard Haitink: unfinished symphony". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 5 May 2007.
  20. ^ "Bernard Haitink (1929—2021) Boston Symphony Orchestra | bso.org". www.bso.org.
  21. ^ "Hommage : Bernard Haitink et l'Orchestre National de France". France Musique (in French). 23 October 2021. Retrieved 23 October 2021.
  22. ^ "LSO/Haitink Beethoven Cycle (3) – The Classical Source". 14 July 2006.
  23. ^ "Mourning Bernard Haitink". Berliner Philharmoniker. 2021. Retrieved 23 October 2021.
  24. ^ Andrew Patner (15 October 2006). "Symphony in good hands". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 21 April 2007.
  25. ^ Daniel J. Wakin (28 April 2006). "Arts, Briefly; Chicago Symphony: Conductors but No Music Director". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 April 2007.
  26. ^ Geoffrey, Norris (9 April 2008). ""Bernard Haitink: I love power without responsibility"". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 22 October 2021.
  27. ^ James R. Oestreich (6 October 2006). "A Jet-Setting Maestro Sets a Brisker Pace for Beethoven". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 April 2007.
  28. ^ Patner, Andrew (19 June 2010). ""Haitink wraps up CSO tenure with revealing Beethoven's Ninth"". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 22 October 2021. Retrieved 22 October 2021 – via pressreader.com.
  29. ^ "CSO Principal Conductor Bernard Haitink Receives Theodore Thomas Medallion for Distinguished Service" (PDF) (Press release). Chicago Symphony Orchestra. 21 June 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 2 July 2010.
  30. ^ Martin Kettle (5 March 2004). "I started far too young. I still have sleepless nights ..." The Guardian. Retrieved 21 April 2007.
  31. ^ "Breaking News: Next Royal Opera Season Promises Minotaur Premiere, New Salome, Voigt as Ariadne" (Press release). Opera News. 10 April 2007. Retrieved 23 July 2007.
  32. ^ Erica Jeal (8 December 2007). "Parsifal (Royal Opera House, London)". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 January 2008.
  33. ^ Tom Service (11 August 2011). "A masterclass with Bernard Haitink". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  34. ^ "EUYO announces new conductors" (Press release). European Union Youth Orchestra. 29 June 2015. Archived from the original on 4 January 2019. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  35. ^ Guido van Oorschot (12 June 2019). "Dirigent Bernard Haitink zet na 65 jaar een punt achter zijn carrière". De Volksrant (in Dutch). Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  36. ^ Lint, Peter van der (16 June 2019). "Het afscheid van Haitink was geen gewoon concert, maar het einde van een tijdperk". Trouw (in Dutch). Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  37. ^ Erica Jeal (4 September 2019). "Prom 60: Vienna Phil/Ax/Haitink review – a beautiful, masterful farewell". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  38. ^ Guido van Oorschot (8 September 2019). "Maestro Bernard Haitink (90) neemt soeverein afscheid in Luzern". De Volksrant (in Dutch). Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  39. ^ Ponsonby, Robert (22 October 2021). "Bernard Haitink obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 October 2021.
  40. ^ Tom Service (22 September 2009). "The passion and pain of Bernard Haitink". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 July 2010.
  41. ^ Mischa Spel (12 February 2017). "Een leven zonder dirigeren lijkt me vrij miserabel". NRC Handelsblad. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  42. ^ Robert Jungwirth (19 August 2019). "Buchtipp – Gedanken und Erkenntwisse eines grossen Dirigenten". BR-Klassik. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  43. ^ a b "Bernard Haitink,1929–2021". Askonas Holt. 21 October 2021.
  44. ^ a b c d e f g "Renowned Dutch conductor Bernard Haitink has died, aged 92". Classic FM.
  45. ^ "Bruckner Society of America". www.brucknersocietyamerica.org. Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  46. ^ a b c Wroe, Nicholas (22 October 2021). "Celebrated conductor Bernard Haitink dies aged 92". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 October 2021.
  47. ^ Haitink, Bernard (in German) whoswho.de
  48. ^ "Queen honours conductor Haitink". BBC News. 9 July 2002. Retrieved 21 April 2007.
  49. ^ "[nl] – Bernard Haitink promoted to Commander of the Order of the Lion of the Netherlands". www.concertgebouworkest.nl (in Dutch). Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  50. ^ Die goldene Mahler-Medaille (in German) gustav-mahler.org; retrieved 30 October 2014
  51. ^ Conductor Bernard Haitink has died, aged 92 Gramophone, 22 October 2021
  52. ^ Out now / Conductor Bernard Haitink Releases His Final Recording theviolinchannel.com 13 October 2021
  53. ^ Haitink dirigiert / Mahler: Symphonie Nr. 9 (in German) br-klassik.de, 13 August 2013
  54. ^ Lifetime Achievement / Bernard Haitink Gramophone, 2015
  55. ^ Parr, Freya: Bernard Haitink’s Mahler 3 wins Recording of the Year classical-music.com
  56. ^ "Bernard Haitink wird Ehrenmitglied der Wiener Philharmoniker". Salzburger Nachrichten (in German). 28 August 2019. Retrieved 29 August 2019.
  57. ^ Ed Vulliamy (6 October 2013). "Bernard Haitink: 'Shostakovich was too great to be miserable'". The Guardian.
  58. ^ Anderson, Robert; Mahler; Soloists; Choirs; Orchestra, Concertgebouw; Haitink (1973). "Mahler: The Complete Symphonies". Musical Times. 114 (1560). Musical Times Publications Ltd.: 152. doi:10.2307/957200. JSTOR 957200.
  59. ^ Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro / Bernard Haitink warnerclassics.com
  60. ^ Così fan tutte prestomusic.com
  61. ^ Blyth, Alan: Moazart Don Giovanni Gramophone, July 1984
  62. ^ Wagner: Tannhäuser (Dresden version) prestomusic.com

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]


Cultural offices
Preceded by Principal Conductor, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Succeeded by
Preceded by Music Director, Glyndebourne Opera Festival
Succeeded by
Preceded by Music Director, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Daniel Barenboim (music director)
Principal Conductor, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by
Riccardo Muti (music director)