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

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It’s simply over two years since, on the age of 90, Bernard Haitink made his ultimate look in London, carrying out the Vienna Philharmonic on the Proms in two of the composers closest to his center all through his 65-year occupation at the podium, Beethoven and Bruckner. The virtues of the ones performances, their readability and perception, and their utter loss of anything else showy, epitomised Haitink’s strengths as an interpreter, which assured his position within the pantheon of Twentieth-century conductors.



British audiences had been particularly privileged for greater than part a century to have had such a lot of alternatives to realize Haitink’s items within the live performance corridor and opera space, starting along with his duration because the most important conductor of the London Philharmonic from 1967 to 1979, then thru his musical directorships at Glyndebourne (1977-88) and on the Royal Opera Space (1987-2002), and in spite of everything within the courting he established in his later years with the London Symphony Orchestra. He’d been a part of my non-public concert-going existence in London from the Seventies, when he used to be certainly one of a bunch of exceptional conductors – at the side of Claudio Abbado, Pierre Boulez, Georg Solti amongst others – who incessantly labored within the capital; they all would had been remarkable in any technology, and I doubt any people realised then how fortunate we had been so as to pay attention them so incessantly.

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

His critics would say that compared to a few of his contemporaries, Haitink’s repertoire used to be unadventurous and slim. Definitely all over his years on the ROH he carried out no Puccini, rather little Verdi (even though his performances of Don Carlos had been super), and advised smartly transparent of the bel canto repertoire. However for his admirers, his dedication to Mozart, Wagner and Janáček particularly, greater than made up for that. He have shyed away from recent track, hardly ever carrying out any composer later than Shostakovich, however he did additionally discover some Twentieth-century British track. His recordings of Elgar and Vaughan Williams symphonies nonetheless rise up smartly, and at Covent Lawn he did habits each Britten’s Peter Grimes and Michael Tippett’s The Midsummer Marriage at Covent Lawn.



Of their unique, subtle method, his performances of Debussy and Stravinsky had been every so often remarkable too, however it used to be 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 used to be the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Dresden Staatskapelle, or the Boston or Chicago Symphonies. He’d been one of the vital top movers within the Mahler revival of the Sixties, finishing a recorded cycle of the symphonies with the Concertgebouw Orchestra as early as 1971, and recording the Bruckner canon in the similar duration too, all performances that part a century on appear as convincing as ever.

But when I had to select only one Haitink efficiency that encapsulated his greatness it will be the account of Mahler’s 3rd Symphony that he carried out with the Berlin Philharmonic on the Barbican in London in 2004. The 3rd used to be at all times a piece that suited his musical virtues of directness and structural integrity exceptionally smartly; that efficiency, so eloquent, so fantastically performed and with out a second of self-regard, conveyed them incomparably. And in my enjoy, the person himself used to be like his music-making, severe, trustworthy and direct; he used to be by no means one for grand public pronouncements or attention-seeking gestures. There have been occasions, particularly when he used to be at Covent Lawn all over its tricky years within the Nineties, {that a} upper public profile and extra evident involvement in fixing its issues would possibly had been welcomed, however it at all times used to be the track that mattered to him, and he at all times put that first.

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