Bernard Haitink’s direct, refined conducting made him a true master | Bernard Haitink

It’s simply over two years since, on the age of 90, Bernard Haitink made his remaining look in London, conducting the Vienna Philharmonic on the Proms in two of the composers closest to his coronary heart all through his 65-year profession on the rostrum, Beethoven and Bruckner. The virtues of these performances, their readability and perception, and their utter lack of something showy, epitomised Haitink’s strengths as an interpreter, which assured his place within the pantheon of Twentieth-century conductors.

British audiences have been particularly privileged for greater than half a century to have had so many alternatives to understand Haitink’s items within the live performance corridor and opera home, starting along with his interval because the principal conductor of the London Philharmonic from 1967 to 1979, then by way of his musical directorships at Glyndebourne (1977-88) and on the Royal Opera Home (1987-2002), and at last within the relationship he established in his later years with the London Symphony Orchestra. He’d been a part of my private concert-going life in London from the Nineteen Seventies, when he was one in all a group of excellent conductors – together with Claudio Abbado, Pierre Boulez, Georg Solti amongst others – who regularly labored within the capital; all of them would have been distinctive in any period, and I doubt any of us realised then how fortunate we have been to have the ability to hear them so recurrently.

Pictured in 1966.
Haitink in 1966. {Photograph}: Erich Auerbach/Getty Photographs

His critics would say that compared with a few of his contemporaries, Haitink’s repertoire was unadventurous and slender. Definitely throughout his years on the ROH he carried out no Puccini, comparatively little Verdi (although his performances of Don Carlos have been super), and steered properly away from the bel canto repertoire. However for his admirers, his dedication to Mozart, Wagner and Janáček particularly, greater than made up for that. He averted up to date music, not often conducting any composer later than Shostakovich, however he did additionally discover some Twentieth-century British music. His recordings of Elgar and Vaughan Williams symphonies nonetheless arise properly, and at Covent Backyard he did conduct each Britten’s Peter Grimes and Michael Tippett’s The Midsummer Marriage at Covent Backyard.

Of their distinctive, refined manner, his performances of Debussy and Stravinsky have been typically distinctive too, but it surely was as an interpreter of the mainstream symphonic repertoire from Beethoven to Mahler that he excelled with each orchestra he carried out, whether or not it was the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Dresden Staatskapelle, or the Boston or Chicago Symphonies. He’d been one of many prime movers within the Mahler revival of the Nineteen Sixties, finishing a recorded cycle of the symphonies with the Concertgebouw Orchestra as early as 1971, and recording the Bruckner canon in the identical interval too, all performances that half a century on appear as convincing as ever.

But when I had to decide on only one Haitink efficiency that encapsulated his greatness it could be the account of Mahler’s Third Symphony that he carried out with the Berlin Philharmonic on the Barbican in London in 2004. The Third was all the time a work that suited his musical virtues of directness and structural integrity exceptionally properly; that efficiency, so eloquent, so fantastically performed and with out a second of self-regard, conveyed them incomparably. And in my expertise, the person himself was like his music-making, severe, honest and direct; he was by no means one for grand public pronouncements or attention-seeking gestures. There have been occasions, particularly when he was at Covent Backyard throughout its troublesome years within the Nineteen Nineties, that a larger public profile and extra apparent involvement in fixing its issues might need been welcomed, but it surely all the time was the music that mattered to him, and he all the time put that first.

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