Long the leader of the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, conductor Bernard Haitink was widely regarded as one of the finest conductors of the 20th century. He was known for meticulous but exciting performances of a wide variety of orchestral repertory, and he also conducted opera.

Haitink was born in Amsterdam on March 4, 1929. His father was a municipal electricity executive, and his mother was an employee of the local Alliance Française. Haitink began his career as a violinist, studying the violin at the Amsterdam Conservatory and also taking some conducting lessons. For several years, he played the violin in the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, but he switched to conducting in the mid-1950s, taking lessons with Ferdinand Leitner. Named second conductor with the Netherlands Radio Union, he led four different ensembles before being promoted to principal conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic in 1957. A substitute appearance for the ailing Carlo Maria Giulini at the Concertgebouw Orchestra led to frequent guest appearances with that group and finally to Haitink's appointment as principal conductor in 1961, at first jointly with Eugen Jochum, and then, in 1963, as sole principal conductor.

Recordings of orchestral and concerto repertory with Haitink leading the Concertgebouw Orchestra were staples of the Philips label catalog, and later, those of Decca and EMI, through much of the later LP era, and well into those of CDs and online reproduction. Haitink also served as the music director of the London Philharmonic from 1967 to 1979 and made recordings with that group as well. His recordings focused on 19th century Romantic repertory but extended back to Mozart and into the 20th century, featuring composers as diverse as Ravel, Shostakovich, and Vaughan Williams. In the vast works of Wagner and Bruckner, his control and precision were nonpareil. Haitink was quite active as an opera conductor in Britain, where he took up residence. He was the music director of the Glyndebourne Festival from 1977 to 1988 and of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in London from 1987 to 2002, recording both French and German opera with these groups. In 1988, Haitink resigned from his conductorship at the Concertgebouw in frustration over government cutbacks; he returned to conducting there after a reconciliation several years later and continued to appear with the group until shortly before his retirement in 2019. He also guest conducted widely with European groups, including the Berlin Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic, as well as the Boston Symphony, where he was named principal guest conductor. Haitink remained active, in the Netherlands, Britain, and elsewhere, through several decades of senior citizen status.

Haitink's recordings number over 450. He continued to record through his eighties, making a new recording of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 (Choral) with the Sinfonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks in 2019, just days before his 90th birthday. In that year, he announced his retirement, making his final Proms appearance in London with the Vienna Philharmonic on September 3, 2019, marking his 90th Proms appearance. His final appearance came three days later with that orchestra in Lucerne, Switzerland. New releases and reissues of Haitink performances continued uninterrupted; a live recording of Haitink's last Amsterdam appearance, in Bruckner's Symphony No. 7 with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, was released just days before his death on October 21, 2021, at his home in London. Haitink was the holder of an honorary British knighthood and was a member of the House Order of Orange-Nassau, an honor bestowed by the Dutch queen. ~ James Manheim, Rovi

Debussy: La mer | Bernard Haitink and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Beethoven: Symphony No. 6, Pastoral | Bernard Haitink & Berlin Philharmonic (complete symphony)
A Portrait of Bernard Haitink
Mozart: Symphony No. 35, 'Haffner' | Bernard Haitink and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Beethoven - Symphony No. 3 "Eroica" (Bernard Haitink, 2013)
Beethoven: Violin Concerto | Isabelle Faust, Bernard Haitink and the Berliner Philharmoniker
Beethoven: Symphony no. 9 in D minor, op. 125 | Bernard Haitink
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