Revered conductor Bernard Haitink dies aged 92
Bernard Haitink, widely considered one of the greatest conductors of his generation, has died in London at the age of 92, his management agency said.
The Dutch maestro, revered for his readings of Beethoven, Mahler and Bruckner in a career spanning more than 60 years, died at his home in the presence of his family, UK-based Askonas Holt said in a statement late Thursday.
Haitink was known for his modesty despite his stardom, and a light touch as a conductor who did not overshadow the musical contribution of the orchestras he directed.
Born in Amsterdam, Haitink played the violin before learning to conduct in the city, making his debut with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic in 1954.
In 1956, he took the podium with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra for the first time before rising to become its chief conductor in a relationship that would last more than two decades.
Haitink became the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s principal conductor in 1967, a position he would hold for more than a decade.
He also had a long relationship with Britain’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where he served as musical director from 1987 to 2002.
As one of the most distinguished conductors in classical music, he led some of the world’s greatest orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra and Berlin Philharmonic.
Askonas Holt said Haitink made more than 450 recordings and was a “passionate mentor for future generations of conductors, generously offering his time to teaching and masterclasses”.
Among many awards bestowed upon him in an illustrious career, he was a recipient of France’s Knight of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and was named Commander of the Order of the Netherlands Lion.
Haitink was married four times and had five children from his first marriage.
Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima paid tribute to Haitink “with admiration and gratitude”.
“His drive and musical finesse are unforgettable,” they said in a statement.
“As conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw orchestra and many other orchestras, he exposed the soul of Mahler, Bruckner, Beethoven and many other composers. We sympathise with his wife and family during this sad time.”
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte hailed Haitink as “one of the greatest conductors in the world.”
“A special man who did not need grandiose movements to lead many an orchestra to great heights. My thoughts are with his loved ones at this sad time,” Rutte tweeted.