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Bernard Haitink, 1929-2021

The symphony conductor Bernard Haitink has died, at 92. In earlier years he had been chief conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam for 27 years, and he also had similar positions with the Royal Opera in London, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, according to NPR.

Haitink made many recordings with different orchestras. Here are some of them. I had this terrific recording of his Bruckner 8th Symphony and this recording of the Shostakovich Symphony No. 15 and I thought that recording was one of his best. The Shostakovich recording also includes Shostakovich’s Songs from Jewish Poetry.

I saw Haitink conduct several times in Boston, including the Mahler Symphony No. 7 in 1985 and the Brahms Symphony No. 2 also during the 1980s.

Now, conductors don’t just stand there waving their arms and cuing people in. To give a great performance they spend a lot of time in rehearsals going over the music, the phrasings and dynamics, etc. For instance, there was an article I think in the Boston Globe during the 1980s in which some people who attended a Boston Symphony open rehearsal were complaining about that week’s guest conductor Simon Rattle constantly stopping the orchestra throughout a work to go over details in the music. Sorry, but if you want a good concert then that is what they have to do. If you want a full, uninterrupted performance, then go to the actual concert.

So anyway, Haitink conducted many concerts over a period of decades in many different parts of the world.

Here is a terrific performance of the Brahms Symphony No. 4, from 2011 by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe conducted by the then-82-year-old Bernard Haitink.

Published inClassical music