Bernard Haitink: the highlights

Bernard Haitink: the highlights


norman lebrecht

June 12, 2019

On the day he announces his retirement, some warm reflections and wisdom on a 65-year career.




  • Mock Mahler says:

    I first saw him as a teenager (me) in 1964, conducting the pre-Royal Concertgebouw in Mahler 1 at Town Hall in New York. Then over the decades, with various orchestras, occasionally in live concerts and frequently through recordings. A distinctively engaging, dependable and unfussy musician–which I think is high praise.

  • Joe Tucker says:

    All my best wishes for Maestro Haitink !!
    Always a gentleman and a pleasure to work with.
    As a Stagehand I have very fond memories of His residencies and tours with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
    Joe Tucker
    Stage crew
    Chicago Symphony Orchestra

  • PaulD says:

    I was in Berlin on business, walking past the Philharmonie, when I decided to go in and check to see what performances were on schedule. It was my good fortune to find that Haitink was there to conduct Bruckner’s Sixth. I got the last ticket, a seat above the brass section. It was a wonderful performance, one that I will never forget.

    • Gaffney Feskoe says:

      Similar thing happened to me years ago on a trip to Berlin. I wanted to hear the BPO with Karajan, but they were on tour. So I had to make do with Richter performing the last three piano sonatas of Schubert instead. Lucky me as I will never forget that concert.

  • Chris in New York says:

    Several great Mahler performances with the New York Philharmonic, including a stupendous Mahler 9.

  • M2N2K says:

    The first Bruckner’s Ninth that I have ever heard live was performed by the Concertgebouw with this true Maestro. It was magnificent and unforgettable.

  • Esther Cavett says:

    About 20 years ago, BH had a heart attack and was away from work for a little while, everyone fearing that might be the end of his career. But fortunately for us he bounced back and did some of his greatest performances after that.

    All best to the maestro !

  • Lindsay Addie says:

    I wish Mr Haitink a very happy retirement. I have admired his music making for many years. Not just for Mahler and Bruckner but for his Strauss, Debussy, Schumann, Brahms, Beethoven et al. His wisdom and insight into the music of the masters on the concert stage will be much missed.

    • Ruben Greenberg says:

      Lindsay: you are right to name other composers besides Mahler and Bruckner. He has always been a superb conductor of French music. His Debussy and Ravel are superb and he has done more off-the-beaten track French composers like Roussel.

      • Morgan Hayes says:

        and even more off the beaten track: Matthias Vermeulen’s 7th Symphony. A wonderful recording from the late 1960s. An angry , but very striking piece which deserves wider exposure.

  • Kelly says:

    What is obvious is Maestro Haitink’s legendary and phenomenal musicianship. What is known to those fortunate enough to experience him in the workplace, is that he is an even more extraordinary man. Maestro Haitink led through quiet example while showing genuine interest in all those fortunate enough to come in contact with him. He is a kind, caring man who’s integrity matches his talent and skill. Godspeed to you Maestro Haitink! You were one of few people in the music industry who touched the heart and soul of all his musicians and stagehands.

  • Petros LInardos says:

    A sample of Haitink’s humility:

    Simon Rattle tells the story of how he and Haitink were sitting in a Covent Garden box at a closed Kleiber rehearsal of Otello. When it ended, Haitink turned to Rattle and said: “Well, I don’t know about you, but I think that my studies in this art have only just begun.”

    “Yes, that is true,” he [said in 2004]. “I’m not ashamed of saying that. When I have listened to Kleiber, I always think, ‘My God, he knows his scores so well.’ He is a fanatic. He looks at every manuscript and he will dig out every note, every detail, every query.”

    The Otello story is evidently from Haitink’s tenure at Covent Garden. Haitink must have been in his late 50s or early 60s. He was one year older than Kleiber.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    As a huge Mahler buff, it goes without saying that Bernard Haitink played a major part in my learning to understand and appreciate Mahler’s music, especially in my younger years. His long tenure with the Concertgebouw produced one of the greatest conductor/orchestra collaborations of all time. I wish him all the best.

    • Novagerio says:

      As a teenager I used to watch the “Kerstmatineen”, (the Christas Matinees) from the Concertgebouw, where the Mahler symphonies 2,3,4,5,7 and 9 were broadcasted through Eurovision.

      I was always impressed by the orchestra’s
      phenomenal virtuosity, its dark, burnished, full round mighty sound and Maestro Haitink’s elegance and full command, aswell as his combination of subdued integrity and burning passion.
      Those wonderful matinees are at full display on the Tube.
      He has by the way a very special kind of funny dutch sense of humor!

  • Tamino says:

    Those are not ‘The Highlights’.
    Those are only a few short glimpses into an immense career.
    Please be a bit more respectful, even with us knowing your headline department always runs on drugs.

  • Keith says:

    I’m disappointed that the videos are not in English or with English sub-titles. I really would have enjoyed watching them.

  • I most recall a radio concert I heard in the late 90s. The announcer related that Haitink had previously left the Concertgebouw under unpleasant circumstances but that this reunion was highly anticipated none-the-less.

    It was the Bruckner 8, the most impressive rendition I’ve heard.

  • Gaffney Feskoe says:

    Oddly, BH did not perform much of Mendelssohn, Dvorak, Schubert or Sibelius. Were they not to his taste, I wonder?

    • ML says:

      He did perform the entire A Midsummer Night’s Dream and D.944 and D.485 with the CSO. Those were absolutely wonderful performances.

  • Ira Dvir says:

    For decades my music library included many Haitink recordings (vinyl and CDs). My first BH vinyl was Mousorgsky’s Pictures in an Exhibition. After that great recording Bartok’s Concerto for an Orchestra follows and Ravel’s La Mer. I find it strange that the LPO cycles of Beethoven’s symphonies and the extra ordinary Stravinsky ballets are almost overlooked as they are superb, with the 6th and 9th being exceptionally beautiful, and the ballets are not only of great inerpertations but incredibly well recorded. As for Shostakovich and Vaughan Williams, these recordings are among (if not) the finest.
    However my top recordings by maestro Haitink are Bruckner’s 8th and Mahler’s 9th, both of the earliest RCO cycles.
    BH is also one of the best concerti supporter for soloists.
    I only regret that BH has not recorded any Sibelius symphony. Well, as Billy Wilder put it: ” Nobody’s perfect”.