Concertgebouw on Haitink’s boycott: he’s being unreasonable

Concertgebouw on Haitink’s boycott: he’s being unreasonable


norman lebrecht

March 05, 2014

The Dutch orchestra which Bernard Haitink, 85, says he will never conduct again has responded with a terse comment to Het Parool:

Over the past five years the management, our planning department and Bernard Haitink have had contact on a regular basis. In the past years the flexibility which other prominent conductors offered to make concert sessions for Bernard Haitink has reached its reasonable




  • The problem with the Concertgebouw Orchestra has always been that the management is made-up of typically Dutch people without any understanding of the art form and deeply immersed in a certain Dutch mentality which also elsewhere creates havoc in the cultural field: individual achievement is somehow ‘wrong’, ‘unfair’, and stands in opposition to the Volksempfindung of an egalitarian society which feels strongly committed to support the poor, the weak, the underdeloped, the disenfranchized, the socially backward etc. etc. (all leftish ideals) but is highly suspicious of the gifted, the individual achievers, the artistic, and especially the successful. This is an unconscius heritage of calvinism. It is a miracle that this orchestra exists at all, thanks to the quality of the players. But I know that the players often feel a strong resentment towards the management who often make unforgivable mistakes, as this Haitink affair again demonstrates. The names mentioned are notorious for their failings and especially: their lack of musical erudition. The orchestra is run as a business, based upon its history and the quality of the players, but not upon any quality of the management.

    That Haitink has been left out of celebrations is not exceptional, but typical of Dutch culture policy. He is important for the orchestra, so: let’s keep him out, to make room for the mediocre and the ignorati. The current anti-cultural climate in Holland with the subsidy cuts, orchestral merges etc., is fitting the picture. In Holland, culture has always been merely a luxury facade, hiding a thorougly populist society. Once there is less money, culture is the first to go. And of course great conductors belong to the facade, not to the content of Dutch culture.

    • Kelvin Grout says:

      As a victim of this strange, but totally unpleasant Dutch mentality,

      I thank John for his magnificent description of the situation.

      When I describe what happens here to friends back home they

      simply don’t believe me.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Yes, it is very hard for more or less normal people to believe what goes on in the Dutch cultural sphere. In fact, the Netherlands do not really belong to Europe; they are a sediment of the great rivers flowing into the North Sea, and the great achievement of the Dutch is to create something that looks like a Western country upon this European waste. But the mentality of the people – there are of course many exceptions – has remained that of peasants used to problems with clay and water, not with culture. I always feel sorry for the young musicians who innocently came to Holland to study there, hoping on some job in the music world.

        A revealing example is the period the Chech conductor Libor Pesek spent in Holland, before he got famous with the Liverpool Phil in the nineties. He had spent some 14 years at the head of a Dutch orchestra in the east of the country. In the beginning, he said, he was treated very well and was very popular, with players, management and audiences: a brilliant foreigner, wow! After a couple of years he became ‘one of us’, i.e. began to be felt as Dutch, and then – him being a really very gifted and successful conductor – people began to intrigue against him, as he expressed: ‘… and then the put a knife in my back’. Thus he left – because he became ‘Dutch’ and as a result, his achievements began to take-on the nature of some unfair, elitist position: ‘Who does he think he is? Let him be like us!’ There should be a warning sign to foreigners….

        • Wolfgang Nebmaier says:

          Not sure if we should call this good new or bad news: get the Dutch off the hook, perhaps. What’s true there is true in many places. Management, today, comes from a commodity frame of mind. Squeeze on the people level, up the hype, erase the elders (in music as in any field). Yes, tere are a few like Barenboim and Metha and Abbado, and the rest is by far neither charismatic nor brilliant. It’s an ego business where a person’s willingness to become a product (or commodity) trumps talent, let alone genius.

          The underlying motivation of the bureaucrats is control. Someone as generous and dedicated as Haitink is a threat to control. Essentially he is long above the Concertgebow, and they cannot handle that. It’s an artistic witch burning (reminiscent of Vienna, btw.). Mediocrity is manageable. Hyped up, long-haired newbes are manageable. People like the late Carlos Kleiber were not manageable (other than bribing him with a luxury car). It’s the system mentality exercised by technocrats which cannot accommodate what doesn’t fit in forms and categories and ratings and databases. These people are avid boxmakers and they are hell-bent to put everyone into one of them. You don’t fit into our control system, we will let you feel it, and eventually scapegoat you.

          When we go on from there and look at the potential of the sacrificial aspect of a scapegoat, things get even more involved. Since the scapegoat is not a pure white lamb shedding its blood – or rather having its blood shed – to atone for systemic shortcomings, to bring about a rich harvest ($$$) or stave off disaster. No, that would create a relationship. Patriarchal control addiction, however, is based not on relationship but alienation. Genius and direct knowledge are frowned upon because it could undermine the exclusive power of those with the sole access to “system”. Consequently, such unboxables have all kinds of evils projected onto them, so the technocrats are in no way indebted to the scapegoats for their sacrifice because it is not really a sacrifice but a just consequence of their “evil” characteristics. It’s an irresistible deal, a win-win for the guardians of manageable mediocrity.

    • G Ell says:

      Very interesting. This very same mindset, of suspicion for, artistically-speaking, the truly gifted and deserving of honor, respect and deference, of dumbing everything down for populism and political correctness, runs rampant too in the USA and the UK. It is a very dispiriting, poisonous and demoralizing atmosphere, again, for the truly gifted. For the mediocrities, and there are way too many, the debasement translates to a paycheck and even adulation. At our expense, artistic and otherwise.

      • John Borstlap says:

        One of the causes of this erosion is the consensus of cultural relativity, which rejects the notion of objective standards for anything in terms of quality, an idiotic notion which – outside the cultural field – is nowhere accepted (people want good shoes for their money and dentists of secure professionality). That art is, to a great extent, subjective in nature does not mean that the quality question is, thus, merely a matter of taste and nothing more.

        The french philosopher Alain Fienkelkraut has described this problem extensively and convincingly in his ‘The Defeat of the Mind’.

        • nyer says:

          is anyone else quite sick of John Borstlap’s constant postulations as an authority on anything and everything, all over the globe and the subject of music? Please stop using this blog as your soap box.

  • Johan Korssell says:

    This is really the most sad affair! Bernard Haitink is a legendary figure and of such obvious relevance to the history of this very orchestra, that this should to be allowed to happen. And it is impossible not see this as a total failure of the management and planning department of the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Haitink should have been given a more prominent place whitin the orchestras 125th birthday celebartions during last season, and how they again failed to give the Maestro a week to mark his own 85 birthday is remarkable weak. Two seasons in row without Haitink conducting the orchestra, they can not afford to loose him like this.

    Considering for how many years Haitink was their chiefconductor, it is not surprising that there were tensions in their relations and that Haitink may be complicated to deal with for the management. But still this seems a stupid and hard way to waste Bernard Haitink. Not the finest hour for the Concertgebouw orchestra. Sad to think that I’ve seem to have heard Haitink’s last concert with orchestra in Bruckner’s Eight last April.

  • nyer says:

    I think at Haitink’s age and with his eminence, he should get everything on HIS terms. And if the orchestra he’s most associated with doesn’t want to offer that, then THEY are the ones being unreasonable. He has paid his dues.

    • John Borstlap says:


    • Will Duffay says:

      Nonsense. He should get everything on his terms? In what field of human activity is that true? Well, excluding those areas such as premier league football and renumeration committees for CEOs of large corporations, neither of which the arts should seek to emulate. No, Haitink is an eminent conductor but he should never get everything on his terms.

      • John Borstlap says:

        It should be seen what these terms would be, of course. But exceptional people should not have to conform to the average and mediocre. This comment is a fine example of the populist way of treating exceptional people: ‘there should not be people who can do more than I can do’, hence cultural relativism, which denies quality differences and reduces everything to a grey, boring sameness.

      • Will, Bernard Haitink is 85 years old. That he has decided not to conduct the Royal Concertgebow because he does not like the way the management treat him should be his business.

        I agree with the poster that was stating that this was not a uniquely Dutch disease, and almost certainly has some bearing on why there are so many singers currently on the sick list. These singers are being asked to sing roles for which they are vocally unsuited. People deserve to be treated with respect period.

  • david says:

    wonderfully put and very true….I sometimes can’t believe that this is the same country to which I moved fifteen years ago because of the richness of the musical scene and its adventurousness… as an old codger I look on with dismay at the dismal failure which now passes for dutch music and culture in a once rightfully proud city. It’s still a nice place to live when the sun is out of course!

    • John Borstlap says:

      The country is quickly eroding, because what seemed to be firmly rooted assets, were merely luxury things, which had to go as soon as the means began to be tight and real interests began to feel themselves pressing. When sacrifices have to be made for the sake fo something of value, you can see whether you look at a meaningless facade or the Real Thing.

      If your desires are purely materialistic, either because of inclination or of necessity, it is an agreeable country: welfare state, nice pubs, multiculti populations, many supermarkets. But as for cultural subjects: get out as soon as possible.

      There is even a whole culture of state subsidies, really millions and millions, for nonsense ‘art’ and nonsense ‘music’, fraudulent and corrupt, where incompetent ignorati waste fortunes on dilletantes and poseurs, but which is dressed-up with tons of bureaucratic documents and government directives as a serious thing which it obviously is not. This has been exposed already many times by serious and intelligent critics, who merely got the full wind of protest from all sides: ‘Don’t rock the boat!’ The children want to keep the playground intact… don’t disturb!

  • Dear Mr, Borstlap,

    How much I agree with your view on the Calvinist approach towards individuality and achievement and the argument that culture in The Netherlands is a facade, I think you are too harsh on the RCO management in this matter. As far as we can conclude, it takes two to tango. You strike me as an educated and well-connected person, so surely you must know of the complexities that come with a sometimes unpredictable and overly demanding genius as Maestro Haitink (whom, for the record, I deeply admire). For organizers and managers, working with him can sometimes feel like running the gauntlet.

    But in all fairness, since the news broke yesterday, there has not been one moment that I thought “Oh, now it’s really, really over”. This is tragic break-up number twenty-something. In the end, Haitink and the RCO always reconciliate. And rightly so, because their relationship and the level of music making is unique and very much cherished by both parties.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Well… I know of a thing or two that shows the RCO management in a most unfavorable light: rude, without manners, arrogant, and musically ignorant. So, when I read stories like this one about Haitink, I feel like siding with the conductor.

    • Floris Rommerts says:

      Spot on Marko.

      It seems those who complain about this in a narrow way have adapted perfectly to the culture they are judging.

      • Inyavic says:

        What makes you think so?

      • John Borstlap says:

        Defining critique as ‘narrowness’, or as ‘personal resentment’, is part of the problem: attempts to neutralize arguments or unwelcome observations, so that the smoke screen remains intact.

        Even if Haitink appears to be unreasonable, difficult, touchy, having exaggerated demands: he should not be measured on the same level as managements who are there for such people to create opportunities to exercise their talents. Critique of great conductors / musicians often stems from the notion that they should not be different from people with less talent.

  • Guus Mostart says:

    I will have to correct you: Jan Raes, General Director of the Concertgebouworkest is Belgian and the Artistic Director is an American called Joel Fried.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Foreigners coming to work in Holland, either work themselves out of the country, or become ‘Dutch’ and internalize the broad egalitarian and mediocrity-celebrating consensus which forms the basic ingredient of DUtch cultural life (also to be found in otter spheres). See my comment upon Libor Pesek elswhere.

      I know of quite some foreign people, not exclusively within music life, who are initially attracted to the free, unpretentious and tolerant, diverse cultural climate of Holland, then land there, and gradually find-out what is behind this facade – which is an artificial image for the outside world.

      • Guus Mostart says:

        You are changing the goal posts; neither Jan Raes nor Joel Fried are typically Dutch people as you state in your opening comment. Besides, both have a solid artistic reputation and a proven background in orchestral management. I find your sweeping comments regarding the Dutch arts scene somewhat smacking of having a personal axe to grind.

        • No, I am thinking of experiences of other foreigners who mistook Holland for the country it wants to be but unfortunately is not. Part of the problem is that, if one has to survive, one gradually accepts the existing climate as the normal one, where erosion sets in. Of course this is a generalization but people with these kind of experiences will agree. Only one other example from outside culture: I remember a German businessman who worked for 12 years in Holland for his (German) company, telling me how much he enjoyed it in the beginning and later-on had to deal with an increasing puzzlement about ‘Dutch mentality’ and especially, frustration about Dutch notions of being ‘honest’, i.e. saying what you have in mind without any consideration of what the effect might be to the other person, a way of negotiation, collaboration, which Dutch people think is a great practical quality. Normally-educated foreigners however, find it rude and primitive. Call it lack of manners and of social skills, which are of course important in all adult contacts in business or cultural fields.

      • You are merely determined to paint a pitch black image of the Dutch mentality, sense of culture and behavior. You just repeat yourself and am sorry you cannot find anyhthing positive about your own culture and country. I have an inkling that you are an once too often rejected artist yourself, so just drop it. We know where you stand, now let’s all hope for a swift reconciliation between Mr. Haitink and the RCO. They deserve each other.

        • John Borstlap says:

          To make an argument personal is an attempt to neutralize unwelcome observations…. And I have nothing to complain, considering the feedback I get in the German-speaking world. But that is not the subject here.

          To sum up some positive things of the Netherlands: there are many people in the cultural field with great talent and individuality like Haitink, Robert Holl, Jaap van Zweden, etc. etc. (But they either conform, or move abroad.) It is a very liberal country with great tolerance to non-bourgeois values. (But most tolerance is indifference, and anti-bourgeois feeling mostly forms another type of conformism.) Government is enlightened in the sense of always seeking consensus and compromise. (There is much corruption and incompetence around, often protected by the legal system.) There are many universities with crowds of students from all layers of society. (Most of the time students enter university without basic skills, so that entry requirements are lowered.) Etc. etc.

          But the really positive aspect of the Netherlands is that the pressure of smallminded conformism occasionally produces people with the utmost individuality and resilience, like Rob Riemen who – against unmeasurable odds – singlehanded set-up the well-known Nexus Institute which organizes international conferences of the highest intellectual level. It is like diamonts being produced under geological pressure. At the annual Nexus Conferences in Amsterdam, the 2000 Dutch individual surviving intellects gather to be confirmed in their mental health amidst the Dutch cultural climate.

  • Hans van Munster Dijker says:

    I am unpleasantly surprised by several statements in this matter.

    The of course respected statements of John Borstlap are definitely not shared by the majority.

    And not by me.

    Further, the highly respected(!!!) mr Bernard Haitink is mistaken.

    He was invited during the jubilee year 2013! But he informed that he conducted the RCO on 5 and 7 april where i was present. I have knowledge that mr Haitink was also warm invited to conduct the Christmas Matinee but he cancelled it for good reasons.

    It’s disappointing these misunderstandings.

    I suppose the best thing to do is to drink a good glass of wine, speak things out in the open and hopefully with the result that mr Haitink will conduct the Concertgebouworkest soon again!

    • John Borstlap says:

      History shows that the opinion of a majority is no garantee of truth, value or even intelligence.

  • John says:

    Interesting theory only slightly undermined by the facts that Joel Fried is not Dutch and that he had quite an extensive conducting career before he moved into orchestral administration…

    • John Borstlap says:

      We find flopped musicians everywhere in music management.

      And then: Fried has become Dutch in all respects. As described elsewhere, foreigners coming to Holland to work there, either work themselves out of the country because they ‘don’t fit in’, or internalize the broad, unconscious consensus of the Dutch in terms of egalitarian mediocrity. It takes an average of 6 years to decide whether one wants to become Dutch as a local survival measure or move out to a country with some cultural identity.

      • John says:

        “When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

        ’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

        ’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”

        • John Borstlap says:

          That’s great. This way of thinking is typical of current cultural relativism, especially rampant in contemporary art and music. It is also reflected in the ‘Institutional Theory of Art’ as developed by Arthur Danto and George Dickie: art is art when established institutions define it to be so. Also there is a link with totalitarian societies: nazism, communism, etc.: reality is, what the government defines as such. The only thing critique can do is pointing to the experience of reality and warning against such mythology.

  • Robert says:

    They should treasure him. I always love working with him.

  • This statement from the management of the RCO reminds me of the Lily Tomlin character on American television in the 1960s and ’70s, Edith Ann, a little five (and a half) year old girl named Edith Ann who, after telling a crazy story, would look at the viewers and say firmly, “And that’s the truth!” before making a loud raspberry noise with her tongue sticking out. How foolish.

  • Tom Foley says:

    I won’t comment on the situation in which the Concertgebouw finds itself. I know too little about it. But I will comment about elitism in the arts.

    You may have heard of the recent debacle of the Minnesota Orchestra, which recently endured a brutal fifteen month lockout. The reality of this was a completely blank season for over a year. Beyond audiences not hearing the orchestra for all thas time, valuable recording ontracts were thrown overboard. The lockout involved oncertgoers in New York City, who were eagerly anticipating an appearance in Carngie Hall–a rare opportunity for a midwestern orchestra–and this, too, was tossed into the wake. The acknowledged attempt of the board was to diminish our great orchestra into a pops orchestra, featuring orchestral arrangements of “Moon River,” and the like. In doing so, they had the temerity to ask the people of Minnesota to help them out, and this involved an attempt to deceive the legislators of the state of Minnesota. What a sorry episode the whole thing was, and how long will it take the Minnesota Orchestra to again be recognized as one of the great American orchestras?

    The whole thing was initiated and carried out by a social and business elite, many of whom speak the same social ideology which riddles your text.

    • John Borstlap says:

      There is a difference between an elitism which excludes people and / or classes from art events for reasons that have nothing to do with the art form itself, and so-called elitism which is a protection of professional quality standards. Classical music is open and accessible to anyone who is willing to put a bit of effort in learning to understand the art form, which will bring immense psychological and emotional rewards. Dumbing-down to lower the treashold will not tempt people who find classical music intimidating… it is merely selling a lie. As long as classical music is treated as a business, or as an instrument for sociological ends, the nature of the art form will remain misunderstood.

      • Tom Foley says:

        I take your point. May I restate my own, and add a refinement. My point was that all of the foolish decisions and undertakings I listed were made by an exclusive group of Minnesota’s “social and business elites.” It was my mistake to not clearly state that “social and business elites” does not limit elitism, and might include or exclude classical musical elites as well.

        I must say, though, that you’re original post muddles a distinction you should have made yourself. You muddle it by contextualizing your observation as being the result of “a certain Dutch mentality which also elsewhere creates havoc in the cultural field: individual achievement is somehow ‘wrong’, ‘unfair’, and stands in opposition to the Volksempfindung of an egalitarian society which feels strongly committed to support the poor, the weak, the underdeloped, the disenfranchized, the socially backward etc. etc. (all leftish ideals) but is highly suspicious of the gifted, the individual achievers, the artistic, and especially the successful.” I mean, really, you do go on a bit, and why wouldn’t I take all of that to mean that there are no Volksempfindung included as elites of any kind, never mind a musical kind.

    • MWnyc says:

      For what it’s wroth, it’s not quite correct to describe the cancelled Minnesota Orchestra concerts at Carnegie Hall as “a rare opportunity for a midwestern orchestra”.

      Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra made a huge splash with their first appearance together at Carnegie Hall in 2004 and were invited back pretty much every year since. Same with David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony. I expect that Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony will be visiting us regularly once they feel they can afford the trip. Not to mention, of course, the Chicago Symphony and the Cleveland Orchestra.

      Rare? Not really.

  • ed says:

    Mr. Borslap- You’ve raised some interesting points, including your observation about the Dutch ‘mentality’, yet I don’t understand why it must be a zero sum game and there cannot be a compromise between the two philosophies, even if it is not a perfect one, and I wonder if you are not ignoring the Dutch artists and cultural organizations that have received government support, or that this type of management insensitivity is happening everywhere. (Recall the proposed SWR merger of the Freiburg/Baden Baden orchestra with the one in Stuttgart, or the year long management lockout of the Minnesota Orchestra musicians.) As for the subsidy cuts, where have they not occurred?

    Now, let’s get back to the notion of individual achievement vs. communitarianism. Is it not the oligarchs that often: (1) point to their success as being due to their ‘exceptional individual skill’, (2) insist on their right to accumulate whatever they can without some reciprocal obligation to the community, (3) maintain that their superior ability to make money is also a measure of their cultural knowledge, e.g., when they also use some of it to accumulate great works of art for their private toy collections, and (4) argue that this superior ability to make money proves that they are better able to determine how to shape and manage the cultural institutions and cultural future of the community? Right now cash is king, and he who has the currency calls the shots, even if his or her skill is limited to making money (legally or not).

    • John Borstlap says:

      Of course this kind of thing can happen everywhere, and it is happening at many places, but in the Netherlands it is occurring much more than seems defensible. For instance, the Dutch ministry suddenly decided to do away with the radio orchestras including the music library, as a way of cutting expenses for culture. Imagine the British government deciding to fold the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic, the BBC Welsh Orchestra, its Radio 3 programme and the London Proms, because that would save a lot of money. Even in the UK, where the business mentality in culture reigns as well, no one in his right mind would dare to comtemplate such thing. In Holland the action of the government was stopped in its tracks by a wave of loud protests, but cuts there were anyway at the radio – at least, the Radio Filharmonic still exists.

      Another example: the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra had to fire their trombones because the authorities found that they were not needed in every concert, so the orchestra has been slimmed to some 60 people instead of the normal 90, and trombones now have to be hired for the occasion on a short term basis. But a trombone, a trumpet and a tuba are not instruments that you can just pick out of the cupboard now and then, you have to practice all the time to keep in shape.

      And so on. In Germany it seems a different problem: there are really VERY many orchestras and opera houses, and they have been heavily subsidized over the decades, and I do remember to have read somewhere that in general German music subsidies have gradually increased considerably over time. They have to cut a little at the edges, which will bring the field back to how it was some 20 years ago, but that is still a very impressive musical field with lots of state money involved. When a minister of culture (sic) wanted to close the Mannheim conservatory and turn it into a music school for jazz and pop, i.e. entertainment, because that was supposed to be more in demand, an enormous protest action came off the ground by the Mannheim population (!) which stopped this threat, Mannheim being one of the musical centres of the German speaking world with a long and important musical tradition. It showed that there is a great difference between the population of the locality and this one politician, she made a fool of herself and the signal of the affair was: don’t touch cultural institutions which are part of our cultural identity. A lesson there to be learnt for other countries, I would say!

      • Peter Bogaert says:

        Short rectification to Mr. Borstlap’s post. The Netherlands Symphony Orchestra employs 3 trombones with a part time (50%) contract. And Germany closed at least two dozens of orchestras over the last 20 years, mainly in the former east.

        Mr. Borstlap could be a bit more careful in his idealizing certain countries and criticizing his own.

  • robcat2075 says:

    “In the past years the flexibility which other prominent conductors offered to make concert sessions for Bernard Haitink has reached its reasonable limitation.”

    Can any one explain that sentence to me? Is it possible that “concert sessions” was really “concessions”?

    Even then, I’m not sure I understand what negotiation is going on.

    • John Borstlap says:

      It seems that somehow is meant that other conductors were prepared to adapt their own conducting periods with the orchestra in such a way as to make room for periods that Haitink would prefer, which would be a laudable gesture towards an esteemed collegue. An orchestra management has to negotiate all the time with the principal conductor and with the guest conductors about periods, and everybody has his own agenda (in both senses), so that is quite a job. And then, the programming itself that results form all these negotiations should be balanced, not overlap with things the competition does in the same period, etc. etc. Therefore, orchestral planners should not only have organizational skills, but also diplomatic and psychological skills, and all this based upon a profound knowledge and understanding of classical music and the orchestral repertoire. No wonder that such cumulative skills are so rare and that many orchestras are led badly.

    • Tom Foley says:

      Yes, it does read as a mouthful of mush. I think it means that other conductors have gone as far as they are able in accommodating the needs of Bernard Haitink. This poses an insurmountable scheduling difficulty. Something’s got to give. Thus…Mr. Haitink.

  • ruben greenberg says:

    Mr.Borstlap is a keen observer of the sociology of music as well as being a very, very fine composer. Any time Bernard Haitink has conducted our French Orchestre National, it has been transfigured. Its own mother wouldn’t recognise it. Years later, musicians remember working with him as a red-letter day. True, the man is touchy and suffers from the “jilted- lover syndrome”. Nevertheless, he deserves to be honoured.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Thank you…. As for Haitink: he is the typical sensitive musician who is touchy exactly because of the insensitive, untalented people running orchestras, and especially the RCO. A stradivarius should not be handled as a tennis racket. By the way: he is the sort of conductor, I think, at his best in terms of expressive depth in combination with a no-nonsense approach, and in which the musician (conductor) is devoted to rendering the musical work and not the other way around. Sometimes he is found to be too ‘timid’, too ‘introvert’, but that is due to this innermost modesty towards the score.

  • Henri Drost says:

    John Borstlap defines a whole country with phrases as “the mentality of the people – there are of course many exceptions – has remained that of peasants used to problems with clay and water, not with culture” and then goes on with a rant like ” There is even a whole culture of state subsidies, really millions and millions, for nonsense ‘art’ and nonsense ‘music’, fraudulent and corrupt, where incompetent ignorati waste fortunes on dilletantes and poseurs” and completes his argument with a rant against “Foreigners coming to work in Holland, either work themselves out of the country, or become ‘Dutch’ and internalize the broad egalitarian and mediocrity-celebrating consensus which forms the basic ingredient of DuUtch cultural life”. Well, that’s not exactly helping Dutch culture, is it.

  • Nicolas Mansfield says:

    Sure I don’t agree with all of this! The Netherlands is full of artists and managers ( often foreign!) who work day and night for the achievement of excellence. Ik droom bij dag dat we voor de volgende generaties een omgeving morgen creëren waarin zij mogen excelleren. Niet naar beneden getrokken door zelfgenoegzame middelmatigheid, het platvoers populisme van lage drempels, verstokte staatsafhankelijkheid of een ijdel afscheidsconcert van een teleurgestelde subsidiecomponist. Maar geinspireerd en bevlogen!

  • Melisande says:

    Besides the proven fact that the conductor Bernard Haitink is a great artist, we probably forget that he is also a human being like all of us. And as we know human beings have so many characteristics, be they good or bad.

    By his in my opinion publicly expressed feelings of distress regarding the ‘neglect’ done towards him by the management of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in the 125th year of their existence, the condutcor emeritus simply didn’t follow the royal paths, viz. to talk it over with the people concerned in private. This emotional and sour ‘coup de grâce’ doesn’t do anyone any good. Let’s hope for reason on all sides, especially at a certain age.

    • John Borstlap says:

      That seems reasonable, but what mostly happens in those situations is that the management refuses to engage and / or stick to their plans. Such offensive behavior deserves to be exposed.

      • Melisande says:

        It IS reasonable. Moreover I wonder why Mr. Borstlap is of the opinion that the ‘accused’ will refuse to engage and/or stick to their plans. If offensive behaviour deserves to be exposed, it seems that he has chosen the wrong ‘profession’ and should have studied law. Again I hope that civilized people,, be they managers or artists, will take their responsibility and erase the stain of this pityful public affair. It is the MUSIC that counts.

  • PK Miller says:

    I think it’s really sad and appalling. For years, it seemed, if one said “Concertgebouw Orchestra” the name that immediately came to mind was Bernard Haitink. Given Maestro Haitink’s age and venerability the least everyone can do is accommodate him. When he goes to the Great Orchestral Podium in the Sky there will be no end of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth but it will be too late. They should appreciate & treasure Maestro Haitink while he’s here.

  • Floris Rommerts says:

    Spot on Marko.

    It seems those who complain about this in a narrow way have adapted perfectly to the culture they are judging.

  • Before the rest of you condemn John Borslap completely about his critique about Dutch Culture, his first degree is from Rotterdamm, and it is clear he speaks from an insider’s perspective.

    It is one thing to criticise your own establishment speaking from a position from authority. He is no outsider.

    • Guus Mostart says:

      Let me speak from a position of authority too. I have first hand experience working in the performing arts in quite a few countries and totally disagree with the views of Mr. Borstlap regarding the Dutch arts scene. Obviously he has a lot of time on his hands and a big chip on his shoulders; bless him.

      • Mr Borstlap (Sorry I misspelt your name last time) is known for having strong opinions. That is his way. I’ve known and know others like him.

        Mr Mostart, you are entitled to your opinions and clearly have a sense of humour (which I admire).

        Being the mother of two teenage boys, I really don’t want to see this degenerate into a slanging match, which is something that would do neither of you gentlemen any favours. You both clearly have relevant experience.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Maybe what I say sounds a bit ‘chargé’… but it all depends upon the value framework one lives with and how one compares things. What irritates me the most of the Dutch culture field is the refusal to think hierarchical when the subject is artistic quality, where ‘anything goes’ and crap is presented as serious art. It makes one feel ashamed to be Dutch, it is simply not European, it is primitive and populist. I am all for an ‘open mind’ – but when one opens the mind to such extent that the nonsense that is around becomes overwhelmingly visible, cultivating an open mind becomes quite painful. I think one should have a mind that is so much open, that one can see through the nonsense and focus upon what is really meaningful.

  • Sietse Piet says:

    Volgens mij Much Ado About Nothing. Kijk voor de aardigheid eens op www. naar de blog “Haitink versus leiding Koninklijk Concertgebouworkesst”. That’s it in a nutshell!

    Sietse Piet

  • Dick Norbruis says:

    Ons probleem is, dat wij het als Nederlanders allemaal zo goed weten. Vooral de mensen, die denken dat zij het weten zijn levensgevaarlijk. Dat lijkt verdacht veel op narrow-mindedness. Ik denk, dat dit een manier van de heer Haitink is om aandacht te vragen. Die heeft hij nu gehad. Laten betrokkenen zich voor het overige richten op normalisering van de verhoudingen

  • Dick Norbruis says:

    I think I owe you a translation. I drafted my “blog” out of a reflex because the contents are specifically meant for those who consider the Dutch language as their native tongue. Here we go:

    Our problem is that we as Dutch nationals know everything so well that we have an opinion on almost all that matters in our eyes, Especially those who think they know are mortally dangerous, This comes very close to narrow-mindedness. I believe what Mr. Haitink did is a cry for attention. And this is what he got in the meantime. So I suggest that all concerned concentrate on bringing back their relationship to normal proportions.