Death of an iconic concertmaster, 94

Herman Krebbers, formidable concertmaster of the Haitink-era Concertgebouw Orchestra, died on Wednesday at a great age.

Krebbers was appointed joint concertmaster at the Residentie Orchestra in The Hague in 1951 together with his close friend Theo Olof. The pair moved together in 1962 to preside over the Concertgebouw strings. They were the best frontline partnership in Europe.

Olof stepped down in the early-1980s, around the time that Krebbers’ activities were restricted as the result of an accident.

Krebbers had been a formidable soloist. His recording of the Beethoven concerto with Haitink was for many years the go-to recording for first-time listeners, accurate and passionate in equal measure.

He went on to become a sought-after teacher. Frank Peter Zimmermann was among his star pupils.

Krebbers with Wanda Wilkomirska, who died this week

UPDATE: Concertgebouw announcement.

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  • Rest in peace, Herman Krebbers. Fond memories of Herman Krebbers and Theo Olof performing Henk Badings’ Concerto for Two Violins at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw many years ago. Thanks, Norman, for including the YouTube link to the Beethoven recording. Besides Herman Krebbers’ solo, I also feel transported into the revered Amsterdam Concertgebouw simply by recognizing the unique oboe sound of those days…

    Here a is a lovely vignette which I remember forever: one evening, when I was a young teenager accompanying my mother to a concert at the Concertgebouw, with Herman Krebbers on the stage, serendipity would have it that, afterwards, we bumped into Krebbers as we left the venue. My mother, without blinking an eye, complimented him on his musicianship and then added: “You look simply divine in your crisp white shirt. Where do you have it cleaned?” Krebbers laughed, and then responded: “Madame, I will be happy to let you know if you would be willing to share your address.” My mother gave it to him, and within a week there arrived a beautifully hand written letter with the shirt cleaner’s contact information and the wish to see us at the Concertgebouw many more times…

  • A life well lived. He would have lived there during the privations of WW2 presumably. That would be worth a book in itself.

  • A great musician and great man. I cherish the memories of his concerts and continue playing his recordings

    How appropriate that Krebbers’ successor as a concert master of the Concertgebouworkest, Jaap van Zweden, will conduct the (now) Royal Concertgebouworkest this Sunday. The performance of Bruckner VIII will be dedicated to the memory of Krebbers. Live on Dutch Radio4 (also by internet) at 14.00 h (GMT +2).

    By the way, his most famous pupil worldwide for sure is nowadays entertaining millions of people with easy going but honest performances of classical music: André Rieu.

    • Was Bernard Haitink a Krebber’s student? I suppose the age difference isn’t great enough. It’s more probable that they both had the same violin teacher.

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