MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

RIP Bernard Haitink (1929-2021)

Bernard Haitink has died. The 92-year-old conductor passed away peacefully at home, according to his representatives.

I had the privilege of attending his very final concert, in the summer of 2019, when he led the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at Lucerne Festival. He maintained a close association with Lucerne for many years, including a nearby residence. Haitink’s farewell song was Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 (without score), paired with Beethoven’s G major Piano Concerto, with Emanuel Ax as the soloist.

Christian Wildhagen penned an eloquent review: ““Hatte er zuvor bei Beethovens 4. Klavierkonzert vorrangig Emmanuel Ax, einem feinsinnigen Pianisten der alten Schule, in nobel-zurückhaltender Weise die Bühne bereitet, so kam bei Bruckner noch einmal der grosse Architekt, der überragende Formgestalter Haitink zur Geltung. Wie beim späten Günter Wand wird die Detailarbeit hier mitnichten zur Nebensache, sie bildet aber lediglich die Basis für eine viel weiter ausgreifende Gestaltung, in der Entwicklungen teilweise über drei, vier Minuten behutsam entfaltet werden (etwa in der magischen Rückführung zur Reprise im ersten Satz oder beim grossen Wagner-Epitaph im Adagio), während sich die Spannungsbögen sogar bruchlos über ganze Sätze wölben.”

That summer–the last before the pandemic–there was also a vernissage for the publication of Erich Singer and Peter Hagmann’s fine collection of essays and conversations with Haitink: Dirigieren ist ein Rätsel. An English translation has yet to be issued.

Filed under: Bernard Haitink, Lucerne Festival, music news

Bernard Haitink Bids Adieu


Tonight is the night: after farewell concerts in Amsterdam and London, Bernard Haitink will officially raise his baton for the last time when he conducts the Vienna Philharmonic is his very last concert at the 2019 Lucerne Festival. The concert has long been sold out.

Yesterday Haitink and his wife Patricia were the special guests at the vernissage launching the new book by Erich Singer and Peter Hagmann: Bernard Haitink: Dirigieren ist ein Rätsel. The maestro was visibly moved by the tributes to his life and legacy.

On tonight’s program, Haitink will conduct Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 with Emanuel Ax in the solo role. Could you imagine a more graceful exit from such a distinguished career?

Filed under: Anton Bruckner, Beethoven, Bernard Haitink, conductors, Lucerne Festival

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