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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

IN MEMORIAM | Dutch Conductor Bernard Haitink Has Died At Age 92

By Anya Wassenberg on October 22, 2021

Bernard_Haitink (Photo courtesy of the Berliner Philharmoniker)
Bernard Haitink (Photo courtesy of the Berliner Philharmoniker)

Beloved Dutch conductor Bernard Haitink has died at age 92. Haitink helmed the London Philharmonic and Royal Opera, Covent Garden, among other orchestras in a long and illustrious career.

Bernard Johan Herman Haitink was born in Amsterdam on March 4, 1929, and studied violin and conducting at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. He was an orchestra violinist before training seriously as a conductor under Ferdinand Leitner in the mid 1950s.

He conducted his first concert in 1954 with the Netherlands Radio Union Orchestra, became its second conductor in 1955, and its chief conductor in 1957.

Career Highlights

  • Chief conductor of the Dutch orchestra Concertgebouworkest from 1961 to 1988
  • Principal conductor of the London Philharmonic from 1967 to 1979
  • Music director at England’s Glyndebourne opera from 1979 to 1988
  • Music director of the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, from 1987 to 2002
  • Principal conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 2006 to 2010
  • Principal guest conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1995 to 2004
  • Principal conductor of the EU Youth Orchestra from 1994-2000

Notably…
…he threatened to resign his post with the Concertgebouw in the early 1980s in protest of a reduction in subsidies that would have led to the firing of several musicians. The conflict was resolved.

Through his career, the late conductor received many honours and awards.

  • Made an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1977
  • An Honorary Companion of Honour in 2002
  • Made a Commander of the Order of the Netherlands Lion
  • Also made a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France
  • Nominated for nine Grammy awards and won two, for a 2003 opera recording with the Royal Opera for Janacek’s Jenůfa and for the 2008 orchestral performance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for Shostakovich’s Symphony No 4

What they’re saying

Sir Simon Rattle is quoted in The Guardian. “It is so hard to imagine that Bernard has left us: he was a constant presence and inspiration to all of his fellow musicians, and the world seems a smaller and less generous place this morning … He was one of the rare giants of our time, and even rarer and more precious, a giant full of humility.”

According to a statement, Haitink died peacefully at home with his wife and family on Thursday.

Along with his major appointments, Haitink also conducted 111 performances with the Vienna Philharmonic, including his final four concerts in 2019, at the age of 90.

Bernard Haitink conducting the last few notes of Bruckner 7 with the Vienna Phil in September 2019.

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