Bernard Haitink is one of the best-known Dutch conductors of recent decades. His career is inextricably linked to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Haitink became the chief conductor of that orchestra in 1961, together with Eugen Jochum. He remained affiliated with it until 1988, when he left after a disagreement – ...
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Biography Bernard Haitink
Bernard Haitink is one of the best-known Dutch conductors of recent decades. His career is inextricably linked to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Haitink became the chief conductor of that orchestra in 1961, together with Eugen Jochum. He remained affiliated with it until 1988, when he left after a disagreement – he did not conduct in Amsterdam again until 1995. Haitink is also the chief conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. At the core of his repertoire are the great Germanic symphonies. Later in his career he also conducted many operas. Philips has issued recordings of his complete cycles of symphonies by Ludwig van Beethoven, Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Pyotr Ill'yich Tchaikovsky, Anton Bruckner and Gustav Mahler. Haitink has also recorded the complete symphonies of Dimitry Shostakovich and Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Bernard Johan Herman Haitink is born on March 4, 1929, in Amsterdam. At age 9 he takes up the violin and has lessons with Karel van Rosière. As a child, he goes to the Amsterdam Concertgebouw to hear the Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Willem Mengelberg.
Haitink studies the violin at the Amsterdam Conservatory with Jos de Clerck and takes private lessons with Felix Hupka, who also teaches at the conservatory in Amsterdam. When he completes his studies he becomes a violinist with the Netherlands Radio Union.
1954 - 1955
Twice, Haitink follows the Netherlands Radio Union's conducting course given by Ferdinand Leitner. He then becomes the assistant conductor of the Netherlands Radio Union's orchestra.
Because he is the only person available who has recently conducted the work, Haitink replaces Carlo Maria Giulini on November 7 at a performance of Luigi Cherubini's Requiem with the Concertgebouw Orchestra. It is a successful debut that soon leads to several more turns in front of the orchestra. Speaking of the debut, Haitink later tells Roland de Beer of de Volkskrant: “I was called and asked if I would come to the office. There sat Eduard van Beinum and Marius Flothuis. I answered: 'I'd rather not. I can barely keep my head above water with the radio orchestra'. But Van Beinum could be incredibly charming, and he persuaded me. When I descended the Concertgebouw stairs to the stage a woman in the audience said: 'Would you look at that! Why he's just a baby'. I was twenty-seven. That's on the outside; inside I was even younger. It was absurd. Still, something apparently switched on automatically. You can't force that, and that must be what 'talent' is”.
1957 - 1959
Haitink becomes chief conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. He makes his American debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the following year tours Great Britain with the Concertgebouw Orchestra.
After the sudden death of Eduard van Beinum, the Concertgebouw Orchestra names Haitink chief conductor, together with Eugen Jochum.
Eugen Jochum leaves the Concertgebouw Orchestra and Haitink becomes sole chief conductor. He begins recording all of Bruckner's symphonies, and later those of Mahler, Brahms and Tchaikovsky. He also becomes a guest conductor with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
1967 - 1979
Haitink is named chief conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, a position he holds until 1979; from 1970 to 1978 he is also the orchestra's artistic director. He becomes a Knight Commander of the British Empire in 1977 and in 1978 is named artistic director of the Glyndebourne Festival.
The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden approaches him about becoming artistic director. In 1988 the Amsterdam Concertgebouw announces Haitink's departure. The conductor says he is surprised by the news and a dispute arises between him and the orchestra. The orchestra names Riccardo Chailly as Haitink's successor, though Haitink prefers Hans Vonk. After 1987 Haitink is excluded from the orchestra's Christmas Matinee concert. These events further disturb the relationship between the orchestra and conductor.
Haitink wants to leave the Concertgebouw Orchestra, but its director, Hein van Royen, persuades him to remain until the orchestra's centennial celebration in 1988.
Haitink leaves the Concertgebouw Orchestra and resigns as artistic director of the Glyndebourne Festival. He becomes the artistic director of London's Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
He receives the Erasmus Prize, an annual prize honouring people or institutions that have made an exceptional contribution to European culture.
1994 - 1995
Haitink becomes the chief conductor of the European Union Youth Orchestra. In 1995 he gives a series of Mahler concerts with the Concertgebouw Orchestra at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra. He and the Concertgebouw Orchestra seem to have settled their differences. He becomes the permanent guest conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
1996 - 2000
In London, he receives the Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera and in 1997 is awarded the Concertgebouw Prize in Amsterdam. In 1998, Queen Beatrix confers on him the Honour Medal for Art and Science. In 1999 he resigns as conductor of the European Union Youth Orchestra and is named honorary conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
Haitink is appointed as chief conductor of the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden. At his farewell as artistic director of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London he is named an Honorary Member of the Companions of Honour.
He resigns from the Staatskapelle Dresden, his premature departure relating to conflicts about his successor. He also ends his guest conductorship with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and receives there the new title of conductor emeritus. Haitink wins a Grammy Award in the “best opera recording” category for his recording of Leoš Janáček's 'Jenůfa' with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra appoints him as chief conductor. November 7 is the fiftieth anniversary of his debut with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, an occasion celebrated with the orchestra performing in a gala concert under Haitink's baton. The programme is Mahler's 'Fourth Symphony' and 'Das Lied von der Erde'.
2007 - 2008
Haitink is honoured with the VCSD Klassiek music award and selected as Musical America's musician of the year. Although the Concertgebouw Orchestra has a long tradition with Bach's 'St. Matthew Passion', Haitink has never conducted it. He does so for the first time with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Haitink's eightieth birthday is celebrated in grand style with a Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra concert of Robert Schumann's 'Piano Concerto' and Anton Bruckner's 'Ninth Symphony'. Kaspar Jansen writes in the NRC Handelsblad: “What is special about Haitink is that his absolute top quality is always predictable but his interpretations never are. One performance can differ enormously from another, and so it is that Bruckner's incomplete Ninth sounded different in so many ways last night compared with 2002 (overwhelming and like chamber music) and 2003 (less sonorous and with an occasional Mahlerian shrillness). This performance was elaborately detailed, conducted with peace and grandeur, often with an open, bright sound and a rousingly powerful and rhythmic Scherzo. The climaxes, with their compressed sound, were awesomely intense and dramatic, the whole was imposing and sovereign”. For the first time since 1987, Haitink leads a Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Christmas Matinee in a performance of music by Beethoven and Mahler. He receives a Grammy Award in the “best orchestral performance” category for a recording with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra of Shostakovich's 'Fourth Symphony'.
Discography Bernard Haitink
In the discography you will find all recordings that have been released listed chronologically. We restrict ourselves to the title, the type of audio, year of publication or recording, label, list of guest musicians, plus any comments on the issue.