Concertgebouw plans discreet Haitink tribute

Concertgebouw plans discreet Haitink tribute


norman lebrecht

October 28, 2021

The conductor was hostile towards the orchestra on and off for much of the time after they ousted him in 1988.

The orchestra has now constructed a discreet tribute to his 25 years as their leader:

The Royal Concertgebouworkest is commemorating its beloved honorary conductor Bernard Haitink, who passed away on 21 October, with the Adagietto from Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. The concert on Thursday, 28 October, under the baton of Maxim Emelyanychev will open with this tribute of the orchestra musicians, preceded by a brief speech and a minute’s silence. The complete programme will be streamed live through and on YouTube.

Memorial concert
The Concertgebouworkest will also organise a memorial concert on Sunday evening, 6 February 2022, conducted by the orchestra’s honorary conductor, Iván Fischer. Haitink and Fischer greatly respected and admired each other, attending each other’s concerts whenever possible.



  • Rabengeraun says:

    They seemed to feel they owned him and resented his success abroad – at least, that’s how it seems from what I have read.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Indeed. Success abroad is unforgivable.

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      Few years ago I bought a superb book about the history of the RCO in images. It was for the 125th anniversary. There were a lot of photos of Mengelberg Chailly And Jansson. And the personality Who was more present in the book was Haitink. And it was normal.

  • Concertgebouw79 says:

    I don’t think hostile is the good word Norman. If we read that we can have the feeling that he left the RCO in the late 80’s and never came back. Like Muti with la Scala orchestra. If you go on the RCO archives you can see that Haitink did a lot and a lot of concerts with the RCO after the mid 90’s. It was not like in the 70’s ok. Chailly arrived in a situation strange ok after Haitink but I don t think that the public and the musicians of the RCO don t care about what happened last week.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The difficulties BH had in Holland were entirely the result of the Dutch collective mindset – extraordinary people rub against the expectation that nobody is doing something above the average level. Foreigners are excused, they don’t know better. But the consensus of the Low Countries is: everybody is the same, and people on a lower level are helped (very helpful social instincts), but people above the mediocre average violate the fairness that should reign in a society. This stems from calvinism, where everybody is the same in the eye of God, and greater achievement or talent is arrogation. When religion eroded considerably in the last century, this levelling instinct took on the cultivation of bourgeois society where it became the norm. Even a shy and modest man like BH had to endure this.

      Great artists from the Netherlands make their career abroad, and when they return with foreign fame, they suddenly are embraced as a reason for national boasting. In no field is this syndrome more apparent than in the arts, because of the halo of mystery, deviation from the norm, and individualism. It is deeply disturbing.

      • Concertgebouw79 says:

        When Haitink left the RCO he was no more a young rising star. The problem is that if you stay too longer musical director in the same orchestra or opera it’s not good for the conductor and for the orchestra. That’s why it’s dangerous for the musical director to stay more than 15 years in the same place. Especially in one of the indisputable top 5 orchestras like the RCO. In a less prestigious place it’s easyer to stay longer you are the one that built the house. Chailly understood that well in 2004 when he left the RCO after more than 15 years. Haitink maybe at one moment wanted to do like Karajan in Berlin. But it’s not the best way to write the story. And we must be happy that Haitink came back at the RCO even if he didn’t do more records.

      • Victoryman says:

        Well stated, Sir. Thank you.

  • alexy says:

    Maestro Bernard Haitink would not have wished more than a discreet tribute. Probably with his humility no tribute at all. But what a great man, musician and conductor. We will miss him a lot

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Exactly, and the arrival of the newer ‘show ponies’ only demonstrates that loss more acutely. Same with the great Frans Bruggen.

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      I have seen the tribute live last evening on Youtube. It was very good. They made a good kind of tribute.

  • David Leibowitz says:

    Replace “discreet” with “moving” and I think you have a more accurate headline.

  • Peter San Diego says:

    I also look forward to the February 6 concert, led by Fischer. That will, I trust, be a worthy tribute.

  • Patrick Vienna says:

    1988 Haitink slams the door after they question renewing his contract, 2004 Chailly goes to Leipzig as they offer 2 years contract renewal only, 2014 Jansons prefers Munich after being asked by his doctor to chose, 2018 they fire Gatti on the basis of a Washington Post article, they settle out of court… director, none of the big conductors want to have anything to do with them for good reason. Already 3 years and probably nobody up to 3024 at least.

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      The Winer don’t have a musical director since a long time… as I said before there’s already a musical director, Ivan Fischer. As I said before also the most important thing is that the leaders of the orchestra stayed and most of them didn’t move since the Gati’s departure. An old story. After of course an orchestra is like a society everybody don’t think the same thing. For me musical director I would like they call is Chung.

    • BigSir says:

      I’ll bet Jaap would grab his Go Bag and head there before the ink was dry on a contract.

  • Corno di Caccia says:

    Is a discreet tribute better than nothing? Certainly, and like many others I would think, I grew up with Bernard Haitink’s/Concertgebouw Bruckner and Mahler vinyl LP recordings and these still remain benchmark interpretations for me. Even his time with the LPO had its difficulties, sharing the podium with the ‘screaming skull’ at the time.
    I also think that a discreet tribute would be appreciated much more by the humble genius that was the much-missed gentle Dutchman.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    “The conductor was hostile towards the orchestra on and off for much of the time after they ousted him in 1988.”

    That’s a pretty bold statement. I’m not denying it, but I would like some evidence, if I’m expected to swallow that at face value. Can you someone provide verified examples?

  • Frank says:

    Commenters saying Haitink’s succes was resented in Amsterdam have huge chips on their shoulders. Haitink was greatly admired in Amsterdam and every single concert he gave from the mid-seventies onwards was immediately sold out, irrespective of the music.
    There is a beautiful painting of a young middle-aged Haitink in the lobby and I’m sure there will be a Haitink bust as a memento in the lobby, soo, too. The relationship with the orchestra was palpably special and Haitink will be missed badly.
    The relationship between Haitink and RCO management was not the easiest, among other things. Haitink was someone who had a hard time speaking his mind directly and unambiguously, and the management of the RCO have not always been the best and brightest (it’s crazy, too, that the RCO musicians earn less than 2nd tier German orchestras, never mind orchestras like Berlin or Chicago).

    • John Borstlap says:

      The problem appears to have been the management. They are supposed to be able to handle musicians. If they can’t, they are not professional enough. If they don’t understand the nature of music and the mindset of conductors, it will be them who will continue to create the problems, and not the performers. Management is always responsible.

  • G.G says:

    I’m seeming Haitink’s name full time in the big front door luminous sign of Concertgebouw, since last week. It is still there up to now.
    All artists performing in the house are paying some kind of tribute from few words to 1 minute silence. Concertgebouw is not just about the orchestra, but also the house.

  • I recall listening to a broadcast of a RCO concert in the later 90s on which Haitink was guesting.

    The program announcer noted, “The orchestra and Haitink had an awkward parting in the 1980s…”