Concertgebouw bans Haitink from its Beethoven box

Concertgebouw bans Haitink from its Beethoven box


norman lebrecht

October 28, 2020

The Concertgebouw Orchestra has released a Beethoven Live box of 9 symphonies to mark a forthcoming online series.

To our mild amazement, none of the symphonies is conducted by Bernard Haitink, who was the orchestra’s chief conductor from 1959 to 1988.

See also: How to wreck a once-great orchestra



  • Not a nice thing I’am agree! Even if Haitink is more famous at Amseterdam for his works for Mahler. But Norman you can be suprise for Chailly!!! He stayed 16 years there… And I supposed he directed few times Beethoven… Concerning the box the big event is the 7th by Kleiber

    • John de Jong says:

      The reason is very simple. Haitink did not authorize to publish one of his perfomances not being fully satisfied with them. As a matter of fact, his Beethoven-interpretations have changed in recent years, conducting the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.

  • Herr Doktor says:

    Banned? Maybe the words “skipped over” would have been a better choice.

    I shudder to think of what this live performance of the 6th would sound like–running time 35 minutes perhaps?

  • Eric says:

    I’m not surprised – the Dutch are masters of passive aggression.

    • Johannes says:

      Correction: Dutch managers, maybe. I’m Dutch and not a manager. And living in Belgium where nobody manages anything or takes responsibility for anything. Does this ring a bell for the UK? So I don’t thing being Dutch is the problem. Being a manager is. Get rid of the managers and the world will be a happier place. Or in any case a less miss-managed place. Cheers!

  • Mark Doole says:

    The big surprise is having the mediocre Norrington performance in it

  • Pedro says:

    It is indeed a shame. No Hatink! They should include their former chief conductors. I am quite sure that live Beethoven broadcasts exist from Mengelberg to Chailly, including van Beinum and Jochum. It looks like a
    Stalin photograph where the Soviet executed leaders where removed from it.

  • sam says:

    Frankly, I think Bernstein would be quite insulted for having been included for his Beethoven 2nd.

    Seriously, who wants to be known for the Best Beethoven Second Ever? It’s like getting the Best Supporting Actor award, or Best Short Documentary.

    • Sashimi says:

      Beethoven 2 is an incredibly
      beautiful symphony that is in no way inferior to the likes of 3,5,7 or even 6. Just because are considered more popular doesn’t make it insulting for someone like Bernstein to be associated with it. As a matter of fact it is quite shocking to me how many conductors and orchestra musicians will tell you that Symphony 2 is their favorite Beethoven because they’re so sick of repeating 3,5&7 every year.

      • Edoardo says:

        Bernstein was one of the few who could conduct Beethoven 2nd

      • Charles B Zigmund says:

        I cannot stand the 7th even once a year. It sounds like a series of boring galloping horse-races. The best underappreciated Beethoven symphonies are the 8th and the 2nd.

        • Terry Byford says:

          I understand what you mean. It does not feel as fluid as the others, but Franz Konwitschny with the Liepzig Gewandhaus makes a very good case for it, especially as it preserves the first movement repeat.

    • Charles says:

      I will take it if offered.

    • Max Raimi says:

      Perhaps Sam could share with us any achievement from his life that could hold a candle to Beethoven’s exhilarating and brilliant Second Symphony.

    • LemonCello says:

      Frankly, your comment shows you know nothing of Bernstein. He would, in fact, have been insulted at your arrogant and ignorant comment about his feelings.

  • Po says:

    Is it possible that Haitink bans his recording to be included?
    Anyway I was at his 90 yo birthday concert in London (yes, not Amsterdam, and he is a dutch). In the program booklet you got all the nice words from Wiener Phil, Berlin, etc etc. But nothing from Amsterdam.

  • Karl says:

    Haitink left the Concertgebouw Orkest in1988 after a diagreement which was never resolved.

    • Pedro says:

      But he went back in the last years.

      • He did several concerts after 1988. There was a concert for his 80th birthday and he did in 2019 a last concert with the RCO. But there’s a legend that Haitink after 1988 refused to pronounce the name of “Chailly” and he was talking about” his

  • Not impressed says:

    Haitink is much overrated by people with poor musical taste. He hasn’t brought unique perspectives to any of the pieces he conducted. And what he did bring was old, bombastic, and tasteless music-making. Guess there’s always a market for that! Once the generation that grew up with him goes extinct, he will be all but forgotten, unlike some of his actually great colleagues.

    • JohnG says:

      Have you heard his Beethoven cycle on LSO Live? He very much re-thought his approach – it’s really fresh!

    • Jack says:

      Good handle for you. I’m ‘not impressed’ with your post.

    • Seán Hurley says:

      Not impressed by Not Impressed. What an arrogant snob. Anyone who considers that only “people with poor musical taste” could disagree with their opinions must be a narcissist with a God complex. It is not surprising that such an over-bearing person would not appreciate the humane, self-effacing intelligence of Haitink’s work.

    • Fernandel says:

      Dear “Not impressed”, temerity is an admirable character trait.

    • MacroV says:

      He seems to have been highly regarded by musicians in the great orchestras that routinely invited him to conduct them, which to me is the best metric.

    • Dave says:

      Bollocks. (I quite understand if this is moderated out, but it is absolute bollocks – admittedly a term which may not be understood by the yanks infesting this blog).

      • Greg Bottini says:

        Well, I happen to be one of “the yanks infesting this blog”, and I agree with your reaction to Not impressed’s comment, Dave, but your remark about yanks is unnecessary and rather childish.

      • Jeff says:

        We Yanks are quite familiar with your ruder expressions and clearly it was not censored. It is interesting to me that followers of classical music are no less rude and argumentative than those insulting each other over less cultural endeavors, though maybe with a better command of the language.

      • Passo Carrabile says:

        We understand “bollocks”, but we likely would have used a different epithet. It certainly would have been moderated out.

      • LemonCello says:

        Wow, “infesting?” Smh.

    • The Ghost of Karlos Cleiber says:

      That’s a bizarre comment. It’s hard to think of any conductor less likely to be guilty of “old, bombastic, and tasteless music making” than Haitink.

      Such criticism as is levelled at him – and there really isn’t much from any quarter, notably orchestral players and other conductors – is usually that he was if anything *too* self-effacing. I have heard his music-making described as a bit boring more than once, but that’s as bad as it ever gets.

      But on the whole, he is – rightly – regarded as an invariably tasteful, respectful musician who did his absolute level best to deliver what was in the score.

    • PIETER GB says:

      who is this putz? Haitink can move you and his ppppp-nissimi in the CG are out of this world. I might have a poor taste but I’m proud of it!

    • Max Raimi says:

      I certainly know a lot of extremely accomplished musicians with poor musical taste then. There are few if any conductors as beloved by my colleagues in the Chicago Symphony as Bernard Haitink.

    • Johannes says:

      Well, well, the occasional troll comes by…

    • LemonCello says:

      It’s your type of arrogance that makes the rest of the world look at us classical musicians as snobs. JC get over yourself please.

  • Mock Mahler says:

    Another interesting aspect: the announced Concertgebouw “Beethoven Festival Online” includes all nine symphonies conducted by Ivan Fischer (live in 2013-2014). None of those is in the box either–but you can get them all for free on the orchestra’s website.

  • Tancredi says:

    Perhaps it slipped their mind? Odd.

  • phf655 says:

    These are live recordings, apparently produced by the Concertgebouw. For details, see link below. Most of them postdate Haitink’s tenure as Music Director, and are said to be previously unpublished. Haitink recorded the complete symphony cycle for Phillips in 1986/87, and then later in live recordings with the LSO. There is nothing in this new set from Haitink’s immediate successor, Riccardo Chailly, who served for 16 years. There is no more ardent admirer of Haitink than I, but I don’t think there is any reason for admirers to feel that he was slighted. BTW the link below indicates that Norrington’s timing for the Pastorale is 39 minutes, but there must be lots of repeats.–beethoven-the-symphonies

    • MacroV says:

      This is probably the best explanation. The point of these sorts of releases is to provide something that hasn’t really been encountered before, or some kind of casting against type. Haitink conducting Beethoven has been documented in commercial recordings late in his tenure; a recording of a live performance in the years before/after isn’t particularly novel. More interesting to have something by a conductor who may not have recorded a lot of Beethoven or who appeared rarely with the Concertgebouw.

    • In the excellent cd box Decca “Haitink the Philips years” I received for christmas two years ago there’s the Beethoven triple concerto but there’s not all the Beethoven symphonies maybe one or two. In fact Haitink worked more for Beethoven when he was at the LPO in the 70’s there was a box of vynil about it. Concerning Chailly, he worked for Beethoven more when he was at he Gewandhaus with the big sucess we all know.

  • Gustavo says:

    Perhaps the old-age pensioner said nope.


    Concertgebouw is peeved that he did his final concerts with Radio Filharmonisch Orkest and VPO.

    • Pedro says:

      He conducted the RCO three times in his last season. Mahler 9, Mozart 17 with Ushida and Bruckner 6, Mozart 40 and Brahms 4, if I well remember.

  • Distant Prommer says:

    Who is the tyrant at the Concertgebouw who can make such arbitrary decisions. This person must be outed and needs to go.

  • Greg says:

    Definitely some political overtones to the omission of Haitink from this set. I’m certain it was intentional. The overall choices seem a bit, um… eclectic. I’d love to hear the story behind the selection of these particular performances. Anybody have the inside scoop?

  • J. Kercher says:

    Concertgebouworkest is now a ridiculous band.

  • papageno says:

    Why??? I didn’t know when Haitink was ever accused of any sex things.. That would be the only reason nowadays.

  • Fernandel says:

    Thank God, the box includes Norrington’s demiurgic Pastoral and Herreweghe’s white-hot 8th…

  • Michael Vaar says:

    Is that it? No further probing? No in-depth research? No just even asking “why?”
    Jeez, what a waste of bandwidth.

  • It’s not just Haitink, though. There are four Concertgebouw Beethoven sets: Mengelberg, Jochum, Haitink, Sawallisch. None of those conductors are represented on this compendium. Looks like if you did a set, you’re out!

    • Philip says:

      I think you are correct about this. When the New York Philharmonic issued their Mahler Broadcasts set in 1996 they didn’t include a single performance from Bernstein on he grounds that his recordings were readily available. In any event, I can’t see Haitink losing much sleep over any slight, perceived or otherwise.

  • Mr P Johnson says:

    Clearly the Concertgebouw has an issue with the great maestro. He was omitted from their 125th anniversary celebrations too.

  • Papageno says:

    Szell’s Beethoven 3rd with Cleveland is the best!!!!

  • Patrick says:

    No Haitink. No order from me.

  • steve b says:

    We have the cd set of Haitink conducting all the Beethoven symphonies. I am not happy with the audio, which might not be his fault. Way overbalanced in favor of the tympani.

  • Dirk H. says:

    My god,who is waiting for another box of Beethoven symhonies.

  • Michael M says:

    I found no mention (no plaque or anything) about the great pianist Serkin at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where Serkin was director for 8 years

  • Willem Philips says:

    There is a reason. For all of Bernard high Timez musicality, musical intelligence, tastefulness and find of knowledge, he is a deal SLT boring conductor who is incapable of delivering an interpretation. He’s good for the notes lined up, in order, and nothing more—ever. He has made really only a few memorable recordings, notably his only Zarathustra and his Shostakovich cycle. That’s it. A good call by the box editors.

  • Daniel in DC says:

    A no brainer that if the selection criteria would have been musical standards (let alone artistic contribution to the Concertgebouw’), Haitink should have been included. But even if historically there were higher levels of governance, these can never be taken for granted. Sharp reversals of organizational fortune do take place. At least the recent Beethoven symphonic release did correctly map Beethoven’s 7th to Carlos Kleiber, which I was fortunate to hear live. What an unforgettable memory to the glorious days of the orchestra…

  • Papageno says:

    American orchestras prefer foreign conductors; The Dutch are the same. Grass is always greener outside.

  • JAMOcl says:

    Somebody noticed that the Box-set has changed, now there is a Kubelik 7th rather the much awaited Kleiber. Very sad