Bernard Haitink: I owe it to the boys who by no means got here again

The Chicago Symphony violist Max Raimi has allowed us to publish this recollection of a exceptional dialog with the good conductor, whose retirement was introduced this week.

Bernard Haitink introduced his retirement right this moment; he’ll conduct his final efficiency in On the finish of this summer season. I’m extraordinarily grateful to have labored fairly a bit with him; he was the CSO’s Principal Conductor between the tenures of Barenboim and Muti.

Listed here are some observations about one in every of my all time favourite conductors:

As a result of his method was so unfussy and drew so little consideration to itself, it was virtually universally underestimated. With a minimal of movement, he might offer you each single particle of knowledge you wanted. I all the time might play with confidence and freedom beneath his baton. I learn as soon as that he admonished pupil conductors, saying “Don’t distract the musicians–they’re very busy!”

Irrespective of how acquainted he was with the music he was performing, he by no means turned jaded. There was not a shred of artifice or mannerism in his interpretations. He let the music stand by itself appreciable deserves, not like quite a few conductors who appear to develop bored even by the best masterpieces and have to artificially inseminate them with eccentric interpretive touches. Maazel and Tilson Thomas are glorious examples of this, no less than for my part.

I nonetheless treasure the reminiscence of a dialog I as soon as had with Maestro Haitink. On a Chicago Symphony European tour roughly a decade in the past, he threw a celebration for the orchestra at a vineyard simply outdoors of Vienna. It’s related to the story to say that one of many applications featured Shostakovich’s final symphony. I arrived somewhat late, and it turned out the one seat nonetheless accessible was on the “grownup desk”, proper subsequent to Haitink!

I used to be nervous; I don’t dine with nice conductors fairly often. So I drank a goodly amount of wine a bit too rapidly. Then I heard myself saying to him, “Maestro, I discover it so significant that we’re enjoying Shostakovich’s remaining symphony with you. I consider it because the final of its type, the final historically structured symphony–sonata allegro first motion, sluggish motion, scherzo, finale–in our repertoire. Simply as you’re the final of your type, the final conductor we see who has a dwelling reminiscence of the world our repertoire got here from, Europe earlier than Hitler blew all of it aside.”

By my wine haze, I spotted that I had principally referred to as our revered host a fossil. However earlier than I might remorse it, his eyes lit up and instructed me tales about his life as a boy in Amsterdam through the Nazi occupation. His father was an electrical engineer, answerable for Amsterdam’s electrical plant. He was pressured by the Dutch resistance to close town down, but when he had, he would have needed to reply to the Germans. He was in an not possible double bind, and it broke him; Maestro Haitink instructed me that his father died shortly after the battle ended.

Then he mentioned one thing completely extraordinary; probably the most superb a part of which is that he appeared to consider what he was saying: “You realize, I used to be nothing particular again in my college days. There have been so a lot of my friends that had been far more proficient than I used to be. However they had been all Jewish boys, and so they had been murdered. I used to be all that was left–that’s the reason I loved the profession I’ve had.”


Bernard Haitink 1957


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