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Sick list: Now Haitink drops out of Berlin

February 5, 2018 by norman lebrecht

48 comments.


Bernard Haitink, 88, was booked by the Berlin Philharmonic for three concerts this weekend to replace Zubin Mehta, 81, who is undergoing shoulder surgery.

But Haitink cancelled today due to illness.

Adam Fischer, 68, will step in.

Bookies are offering 100-8 against a triple cancellation.


Comments (48)

  1. Mike says:

    I wish top orchestras would take more care when hiring elderly conductors. How is it physically let alone mentally possible for an 88 year old person to conduct 3 concerts in one weekend?

    1. MacroV says:

      Presumably Haitink (with his people) is the best judge of his health and fitness, not only to conduct three concerts but to lead 3-4 rehearsals that same week. In this case it appears he is ill, but still able when at full strength to lead such a program.

    2. james says:

      Herbert Blomstedt (90) conducted a program (including a Bruckner symphony) a couple months ago in Berlin. The week before that, Haitink conducted Mahler 9. Their performances speak for themselves.

      1. Pedro says:

        I was at that Mahler 9. Magnificent. I hope that Haitink will get better on February 24 for his Deutsches Requiem in Amsterdam with the Netherlands Radio Orchestra and on March 11 for another Deutsches Requiem in Hamburg with the SOBR! I was lucky enough to get tickets for both.

        1. Jaybuyer says:

          He seems to be limiting himself to works which mean a lot to him (and why not?). Was at his Bruckner 7 and 8 – and, I think, Mahler 9 – in the Barbican in recent years. Already have a ticket for his 90th Birthday Bruckner 4 with the LSO in March 2019. Living in London, it’s just a taxi ride for him to the hall. Hope he makes it!

      2. Rgiarola says:

        +1! there are too many believers in the hype about young conductors. They act as if experience do not worth the risk of eventual ilness. Even their phony messiah had already cancel due to sickness, and he is barely 40 yrs ols

    3. Thomasina says:

      Herbert Blomstedt came to Japan (with Gewandhaus) last November and had five concerts in three cities in a week. I heard that the audiences worried about his health but he was very fine.

      1. Thomasina says:

        Sorry, it’s nonsense to compare the health of the two maestroes. I hope he will recover soon.

        1. Jaybuyer says:

          Memories of VP Dan Quale in 1992 ‘correcting’ a young elementary school boy’s spelling of potato to ‘potatoe’. I think you will find foreign (usually Italian) nouns ending in ‘o’ form the plural with a simple ‘s’. Thus: concertos, maestros, piccolos. Or, for the unbearable grammar snobs, concerti, maestri, etc. (Nitpicker)

          1. Thomasina says:

            I am French-Japanese, so English is the third language. I spelled Maestroes because I confirmed the plural of Maestro on the internet in the past. They showed to me Maestroes. So it’s not me but the internet is snobbing.

  2. Fernando says:

    Last friday we were able to see Haitink conducting a nice performance of Strauss’ Ein Alpensinfonie in a live webcast provided by the Royal College of Music, which included Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 with the Young and talented Martin James Bartlett as soloist. It was beautiful to see the affection of those Young musicians towards their venerable conductor, who wasn’t apparently ill. I hope he will recover soon!

    1. Player says:

      Is this available online? I thought it was being live-streamed…?

  3. Rob says:

    Haitink is a legend!

  4. Mike says:

    He might be a legend but he could be a short lived legend if he continues to do 3 concerts over a weekend let alone the rehearsal time involved!!

    1. James says:

      How can a soon to be nonagenarian be “short-lived”? I won’t disagree that he’s a legend.

  5. Borech says:

    I still remember Haitink’s priceless response to the ROH’s Ring, in the documentary “The House”. It’s still available online, in parts. This is part 5. The fun starts at 19.00 mins.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F11XqSrW0E4

    1. buxtehude says:

      Completely fascinating and beautifully-made documentary. Great access into the madness of regie-theatre too, if that’s how you spell it.

    2. Petros Linardos says:

      Thank you for bringing this up. Famously polite Haitink does not hide his thoughts.

    3. collin says:

      Thanks for the link, I wasn’t aware of such a documentary. Fascinating and eye opening. I hope I have the time to binge watch the other episodes (it’s better than Netflix).

      A veritable vipers nest of competing fiefdoms, turfs, allegiances and alliances… I had no idea chorus members were so…ahem…bitchy, lol (if the term is still allowed today).No wonder divas (and divos) fit right in.

      1. buxtehude says:

        You won’t be disappointed! Got through the first 2 1/2 eps last night. The ballet co-stars with opera and mayhem behind-the-scenes consistently out-does the drama on stage.

        Continuously amazed at this production’s access, including hiring and firing and very frank behind-the-back assessments. It’s even possible to imagine where they were kept out, and what had to remain in the editing room.

  6. Elizabeth Owen says:

    Ilya Musin was in his 90’s and stood in for Gergiev twice in London in the 1990’s when Gerviev was I’ll.

  7. Simon Scott says:

    Who is the last great conductor,Zubin Mehta or Bernard Haitink?

    1. sue says:

      Carlos Kleiber once referred to Mehta as “that thug”.

      1. Simon Scott says:

        Hmmmmm. I tend to have the impression that conductors don’t like each other very much…..
        I can’t think why…. Besides,do we really need them?

        1. Petros Linardos says:

          I am not sure whether one can generalize. Any specialized professionals can be opinionated and critical of some of their colleagues. You can just as easily find on record conductors making positive comments about other conductors, possibly dimiss them as public relations nonsense.
          Listen to any given orchestra under different conductors and judge for yourself whether they make any difference. As a student in the 80s I had the privilege of doing this with the Vienna Philharmonic, at the opera or in concert. I assure you they sounded very different depending on who was at the podium. Most of the time, they did not live up to their reputation, even under famous people. Under Karajan, however, to name one prominent example, they did have the lush sound associated with this famous and controversial conductor.

          1. Sue says:

            Actually, it was comparatively rare for Kleiber to pass any comments about his contemporaries at all. Except for that jocular letter in a Munich newspaper written to Celibidache ‘in heaven’ (!) Carlos kept his views to himself. He liked Klaus Tennstedt, and I don’t blame him.

          2. Petros Linardos says:

            I was addressing Simon Scott’s comments.

            I also know of Kleiber’s positive comments on Karajan and Wand. In general, however, I find Kleiber’s known comments most entertaining but very provocative for their own sake, especially about conducting. His famous letter about Celibidache is perhaps the funniest thing I’ve ever read from a musician’s hand.

    2. Anon says:

      Conductors are always as great as the interested public needs them to be. Exactly that great. They are no different than other stars in their respective fields, actors, athletes etc.
      Today that need to put conductors on pedestals and adore them has somewhat decreased. And that is probably a good thing in a way.

    3. Ben says:

      Mehta is the King without any cloth. 🙂

      Attended their concerts in past few decades. I am yet to walk away from any Haitink concert that didn’t move me deeply.

      1. Sue says:

        Are you saying Mehta is the emperor without clothes?

        1. ben says:

          An Emperor is more noble than a King…..IMHO

        2. Jaybuyer says:

          In German: “des Königs neue Kleider” (not Kaisers, interestingly enough)

  8. Rodney Friend says:

    Yes, re: Kleiber and Mehta, in

    ‘Corresponding with Carlos: A Biography of Carlos Kleiber’

    CK calls Mehta ‘a benighted thug’ (pg 233)

    1. Stephen says:

      I don’t know Mehta personally but any time I have seen or heard him speak he comes across as an extremely nice man. He is also always ready, when possible, to stand in for a sick colleague. If Carlos K; was referring to his conducting, I wouldn’t generally agree either: he made a superb Mahler 2 in Vienna and his “Trovatore” with Domingo is highly recommendable too.

      1. Simon Scott says:

        A couple of years ago Mehta was the recipient of a parking fine in Florence.
        However,some passers by recognised him and pleaded with the policeman to absolve Maestro Mehta. But no,Mehta insisted on paying up like any other citizen

  9. Manu says:

    The news here is not that Haitink cancels but that the Berliner debut with Adam Fischer. Time for them to wake up! One of the greatest musicians of our time.

    1. Suzanne says:

      It’s not his debut, he conducted the orchestra at least once many years ago.

      1. Hardy says:

        Adam Fischer had conducted Juge-Deutsche Philharmonie at Berlin, but not Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. This is his debut.

        He conducts Vienna Philharmonic often and even at the Carnegie Hall in 2019. But somehow he was never invited by the Berlin Philharmonic. I wonder why…

  10. collin says:

    It’s not the rigor of conducting that is a threat to the health of the elderly, it is the rigors of airplane travel: the dry air and dehydration, the restricted movement and blood clots, the spread of influenza virus in crowded small space (not saying he is out with the flu, but would not be surprised given the pandemic this season), and of course, the biggest factor, the brutal jetlag.

  11. Mike Schachter says:

    One obviously admires very elderly men still conducting but perhaps they could consider retiring at a much greater age than most people, even allowing more space for the young? In the US there were till recently famous surgeons operating in their 90s. Admittedly conducting is less risky but still.

    1. Simon Scott says:

      Do these elderly surgeons actually perform operations or do they supervise their younger and less experienced colleagues?

    2. Trebels All Round says:

      Si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait …

      The miracle of music and music making is that very great conductors like Haitink and Blomstedt still have the power to create performances of the greatest humanity, a humanity borne of the wisdom and experience of age. To ‘retire’ them a concert hall is inconceivable and we should cherish and be grateful for the music making years which are left to them. The young ones who have the talent – and, sadly, those without – will survive without positive discrimination and will be the better for a bit of a struggle, and I doubt that there is much ‘podium blocking’ going on when there are so few great conductors of riper years. What marks out Haitink and Blomstedt is their humility before the music, their wish to serve the notes, not to serve their own egos; something which on which younger careers might focus.

      There are, of course, some clingers-on who are past their sell-by date and for whom vanity is the great motivator, but that’s the risk you have to take, and in the end audiences may begin to abandon them. Anyone for Placido’s Walküre at Bayreuth this summer? Yes, yes, I’m sure there are, and they’ll enjoy schmoozing in the bar over a nice glass of champagne. But when I left the Barbican last year after Haitink’s Bruckner 9 strangers on the tube were talking to one another about a musical experience unlikely to be matched, let alone bettered, any time soon.

      1. TREBLES ALL ROUND says:

        I do know how to spell Trebles but don’t know how to correct something already posted. Hope that the mistake does not invalidate my post!

      2. Simon Scott says:

        The days of the truly great musicians is almost over. Only two of the golden age violinists are left;Ivry Gitlis and Ida Haendel. Conductors: Mehta,Haitink and Blomstedt. Beyond that,we must don our thinking caps…. Let’s grab it while we can still get it

        1. Pedro says:

          Not entirely true, I’m afraid. I also like Muti, Barenboim, Thielemann, Gatti, Salonen, Gergiev and Yannick – speaking only of conductors I have heard live. Of course, I miss Karajan, Böhm, Kleiber, Bernstein, Jochum, Sanderling and Celibidache, among others, and the stupendous concerts I attended. But life must go on.


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