Bernard Haitink, renowned Dutch conductor, dies at 92

Renowned Dutch conductor Bernard Haitink who led the London Philharmonic orchestra dies aged 92

  • Bernard Haitink, 92, was chief conductor of London Philharmonic from 1969-79
  • He succeeded Colin Davis as music director of The Royal Opera from 1987-2002
  • ‘His loss leaves an immense void in the world of music’, his music director said 

Bernard Haitink, a Dutch conductor who led the London Philharmonic orchestra, died at his home in London on Thursday aged 92, his management agency said.

Haitink was born in Amsterdam on March 4, 1929, studying violin and conducting at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, making his conducting debut with the Netherlands Radio Union Orchestra on July 9, 1954.

He conducted his first performance with the Concertgebouw, the Netherlands´ premier orchestra, in 1956, becoming co-principal conductor with Eugen Jochum in 1961 and sole principal conductor in 1963, a position he held he held until 1988. 

Under his tenure, the Concertgebouw was considered among the world´s premier orchestras alongside the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics.

Haitink was known for interpretations without flash.

Critic Daniel J. Wakin wrote after a Brahms Symphony No. 2 with the Berlin Philharmonic at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 1991: ‘Haitink´s approach was more passionate than portentous, happily lacking in heaviness.’

Haitink developed a lengthy and influential career in England, where he was chief conductor of the London Philharmonic from 1969-79 and music director of the Glynebourne Festival from 1978-88.

Bernard Haitink (pictured in 2019) was born in Amsterdam on March 4, 1929, studying violin and conducting at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, making his conducting debut with the Netherlands Radio Union Orchestra on July 9, 1954

He succeeded Colin Davis as music director of The Royal Opera, Covent Garden, in 1987 and held the position until 2002. Among the highlights of his tenure were a color-splashed Graham Vick production of Verdi´s ‘Falstaff’ that reopened the refurbished Royal Opera House in December 1999.

Andrew Clements wrote in the Guardian before Haitink stepped down from Covent Garden: ‘If we have seen a lot of Haitink here in the concert hall and the opera house over the past three decades and more, that has been our gain, for he is one of the leading conductors of our age, a superbly natural musician who brings a rare combination of rigour and expressiveness to everything he tackles.

‘Haitink´s performances have always been a reflection of the man himself: direct, unshowy and profoundly truthful.’

He was principal conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 2006-10, between the terms of music directors Daniel Barenboim and Riccardo Muti, and became principal guest conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1995-2004. 

He was also principal conductor of the European Union Youth Orchestra from 1994-2000.

‘His loss leaves an immense void in the world of music,’ Muti said in a statement.

He was principal conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 2006-10, between the terms of music directors Daniel Barenboim and Riccardo Muti, and became principal guest conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1995-2004 

Haitink developed a lengthy career in England, where he was chief conductor of the London Philharmonic from 1969-79 and music director of the Glynebourne Festival from 1978-88

Haitink conducted 111 performances with the Vienna Philharmonic, making his debut in February 1972 and leading the ensemble on tour to Costa Mesa, California, and Carnegie Hall in 2002. 

He conducted his final four concerts with that orchestra at age 90 from Aug. 30 to Sept. 6, 2019, programs of Beethoven and Bruckner in Salzburg, Austria; London; and Lucerne, Switzerland.

Haitink was nominated for nine Grammy Awards and won two, for 2003 opera recording with the Royal Opera for Janácek´s ‘Jenufa’ and for 2008 orchestral performance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for Shostakovich´s Symphony No. 4.

His recordings include Beethoven and Brahms symphony cycles for the London Symphony Orchestra´s LSO Live label, and an extensive library for Phillips and EMI.

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