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Bernard Haitink RIP


Lizbie1
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Woke up to the very sad news. So many wonderful evenings at ROH & concert halls: unforgettable Meistersinger, Don Carlo, Jenufa, Mahler and (belatedly for me) Bruckner. The BBC only recently repeated ‘Bernard Haitink, The Enigmatic Maestro’ but I do hope there’s a further repeat & a full tribute to such a truly great conductor & humanitarian.

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Few conductors can do equal justice to the full range of the standard opera repertory.  They tend either to be better in the Italian than the German repertory or better at the German than the Italian while the French repertory and more recent national operatic schools tend to be best served by specialists in those genres. I suspect that Sir Charles Mackerras is the only opera conductor that I will ever encounter who was equally at home with every opera composer from Monteverdi to the major opera composers of the twentieth century and with every national school of opera. While I know that Haitink was undoubtedly a great conductor and a truly outstanding music director at both Glyndebourne and Covent Garden I think that the key to his greatness was that he knew and acknowledged his operatic blind spots and left those areas of the repertory to other equally able conductors. As to the secret of his success as an opera conductor I think that it boiled down to understanding the need to keep a proper balance between the pit and the stage which enabled the singers to deliver the text which the composer had set and having the wisdom and humility to know the areas of the opera repertory for which he had a real affinity and those for which he had little or none. I trust that this will not sound as if I am damning Haitink with faint praise because I regard this level of personal insight as a real artistic strength. It is certainly one I wish the current incumbent possessed.

 

As far as the ballet is concerned I wish that Haitink had conducted far more ballet.Sadly most ballet goers never have the opportunity to experience a ballet performance when a major orchestral conductor is in charge of the orchestra. Most of the time we see performances in which the ballet conductor accompanies the dancers at the orchestra and indulges their every whim as far as tempi are concerned.Such musicians barely deserve to be called conductors as they do not see it as their duty to propel the performance forward. All I can say is that the presence of a conductor like Boult in the pit for Enigma or Haitink for Sacre transforms the whole experience for the audience because of the inspirational effect that music making of that quality has on the dancers on stage. It is something you never forget.

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Kevin O'Hare paid tribute to Haitink before tonight's performance of Romeo & Juliet - which was one of the ballets Haitink had conducted for the RB back last century.  The performance was dedicated to his memory.  Obviously quite a few audience members hadn't previously been aware of the news.

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  • alison changed the title to Bernard Haitink RIP

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