Bernard Haitink, 89, takes a sabbatical

Bernard Haitink, 89, takes a sabbatical


norman lebrecht

January 29, 2019

The Dutch conductor has cleared his diary for the coming season to take a well-earned rest, according to local media.

He will continue to fulfil engagements until the summer, including a Bruckner 4th with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic.

Haitink will turn 90 in March. He suffered a serious fall last June while conducting the Concertgebouw, followed by another in Chicago.



  • Nicht Schleppend says:

    Realistically – will he conduct again?

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Time to put your feet up, Maestro Haitink, after a very distinguished career. Good luck to you.

  • Herr Doktor says:

    Let’s hope it’s really just a sabbatical. It’s never anything less than wonderful to hear Bernard Haitink live in concert here in Boston. We’re all hoping he will return.

  • The View from America says:

    He’s certainly earned the right to take a sabbatical. Up to now it seems he’s been twice as active as some conductors half his age.

  • Richard Craig says:

    over the years i have been lucky enough to hear Mr Haitink several times and it has always been a wonderful experience i wish him well

  • Axl says:

    I really really really hope that is just a sabbatical! Haitink is simply the World’s best and the most legendary conductor and I truly want, that he will continue to conduct. But then, he is definetly deserved a sabbatical!

  • Pedro says:

    He was on top form last Thursday in Amsterdam. I have tickets for his next concerts in Luxembourg, Munich, London, Berlin, Amsterdam and Salzburg.

    • Brian says:

      Wasn’t it absolutely superb, Pedro? I heard the concert on Sunday, read the sentence about the sabbatical in the programme, raised an eyebrow, had a coffee and thought: “Cool!”

      • Pedro says:

        Indeed Brian. Haitink’s Mozart 40 was a revelation for me. Brahms 4 I have heard before. I remember a great performance of it many decades ago at the RFH with the Philharmonia.

        • Brian says:

          Yep. And I think I know both pieces fairly well. They are standard repertoire, after all. But the sign not only of a great piece, but also of a good performance, is when you discover new things as you listen.

          As a groupie, you should consider coming to Cologne in February. He will be conducting the CoE there twice, on the 7th and the 10th.

          And you mentioned Amsterdam. When is his next performance there? Did I miss something?

          Don’t forget Lucerne in August. (Too pricey for me, though, I confess.)

          • Pedro says:

            1. Mozart 40 was indeed revelatory. Lots of details I have never noticed before, thought for me a Bernstein concert performance of it in 1984 is ” primus inter pares”.
            2. The Luxembourg programme is the same as Cologne’s.
            3. The next and last concert in Amsterdam will be on June 15. Strauss lieder with Tilling and Bruckner 4.
            4. The Lucerne concert in September is the same as Salzburg’s ( Beethoven op.58 with Perahia and Bruckner 7). In the two previous days there is a Bruckner 6 with Blomstedt and the 8 with Nelsons.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      I’m INCREDIBLY jealous!! Lucky you.

    • Mark Hildrew says:

      ==I have tickets for his next concerts in Luxembourg, Munich, London, Berlin, Amsterdam and Salzburg.

      Blimey Pedro, are you a groupie ?

      • Pedro says:

        Mark. Only the best is good for me and Haitink is IMHO the best living conductor. I hope to attend as many concerts as possible before his sabbatical. By the way, the sabbatical has been announced many months ago in Haitink’s page of his agent’s ( Askonas Holt ) site.

  • Michael in Missouri says:

    Wishing him very well. I’ve only heard him conduct the Royal Concertgebouw once, in a concert of Strauss and Mahler, but it was a superb, memorable performance. He’s certainly earned the right to take a rest!

  • Amos says:

    BH has clearly had a distinguished career leading world class orchestras. The public record suggests he is widely viewed as a knowledgeable and tasteful musician. That said, based on his recordings with the RCO and LPO and numerous broadcasts I’ve heard with the BSO I find more often than not his performances dreadfully dull. He is often classified as a “classical” conductor along with Szell among others. IMO one of the elements of a GS performance which makes it worth hearing is what I’d describe as apt vitality, a quality invariably absent from BH. I wish BH only the best but his conducting generally leaves me uninspired.

    • The View from America says:

      If he had recorded nothing else, I’m glad he did the Liszt tone poem series. In that repertoire, Mazur, Mehta and Solti are just also-rans by comparison.

    • Willi Philips says:

      Concur completely. He is an intelligent, perceptive, kind, magnanimous man, whose interpretations are devoid of character and singularly fail to incandesce and excite with a consistency verging in 100%. Hecsucceedsxbestveithvmusic that can withstand taming—Strauss and Shostakovich. And in those composers some of his best recorded work has emerges, but that is not enough. Overall, his career interpretively speaking has been one of general inadequacy. This has been the case for the last 50 years. I also wish him only the best, as I think his intentions and objectives have always been genuine and intellectually honest.

    • Roland says:

      Haitink is a genius!! His interpretations have reference status, his conducting is extraordinary, he makes every orchestra playing at its very best!! Have you ever heard him conducting Mahler or Bruckner live in concert? Then simply forget the word ´dull´ and replace it by ´unsurpassed´, ´extraordinary´, ´magnificient´, ´unforgettable´, ´overwhelming´, ´on fire´. And then listen again to his recordings of Liszt, Mahler, Bruckner, Brahms. You call those recordings ´dull´??? Open your ears, open your mind to his fine approach to music, and you will surely change your mind!

  • braun says:

    Dirigieren hat Haitink am Leben erhalten. Unmöglich dass er nach einem Jahr Pause wieder zurück kommt. Das ist das Ende der karriere Haitink. Leider.

  • Spenser says:

    Best wishes and good luck, Maestro!
    Take a well-deserved break, then make any further decisions about conducting concerts after you’ve rested.
    Remember, Stokowski retired from conducting live concerts at 91 but continued to make (excellent) recordings for four more years, until his death at 95.

  • Santipab says:

    This article is clearly about the Concertgebouw Orchestra and as such only tells us that there will be no concerts with that orchestra in the coming season. However he will not appear with the LSO next season either, though I would not be surprised to see him turn up with the COE or some orchestra close to where he lives in Switzerland.

  • Fan says:

    Bruckner with the LSO in March. A musicians musician.

  • Michael Turner says:

    Bernard Haitink has one of the finest baton techniques there is. He is not hugely demonstrative and, as such, his performances are perhaps not as full of over-the-top gestures as others. Yes, if you want heart-on-sleeve Mahler (which sometimes I do), you turn to Bernstein. If you want super-luxuriant Ravel, then turn to Rattle. But let me take Bartok as my key example. I remember alighting on Haitink’s disc of the Concerto for Orchestra and the Dance Suite as a callow youth. Having got hooked on the pieces, I then started on some comparisons. Solti – a bit scrappy but fiery. Boulez – precise but lifeless. Haitink – a superb performance that I feel is at the top of the tree.

    Take a rest BH and enjoy occasional podium visits as the icon you are.