On Air Now
Smooth Classics with Margherita Taylor 10pm - 1am
The great conductor Bernard Haitink has worked with many of the world's major orchestras. Find out more about his brilliant career.
Bernard Haitink was born on 4 March 1929 in Amsterdam, where he studied music at the city's conservatoire. He played the violin and oboe in orchestras before taking courses in conducting.
Haitink conducted his first concert on 19 July 1954 with the Netherlands Radio Union Orchestra – later the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic. He was appointed second conductor of the orchestra in 1955, and its chief conductor two years later.
Haitink’s conducting debut with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra was on 7 November 1956, when he stepped in for Carlo Maria Giulini. He became principal conductor of the Concertgebouw in 1961, and shared that position jointly with Eugen Jochum until 1963, when Haitink became sole principal conductor
Outside of the Netherlands, Haitink was principal conductor of the London Philharmonic from 1967 to 1979. He also served as the music director at Glyndebourne from 1978 to 1988 and was music director of the Royal Opera House from 1987 to 2002, where he was praised for his musicianship.
In the early 1980s, Haitink threatened to resign his Concertgebouw post in protest at proposed reductions to its subsidy from the Dutch government. The situation was eventually settled, and Haitink remained chief conductor until 1988.
He served as principal guest conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1995 to 2004, when he took on the new title of conductor emeritus. In addition, he has appeared with l'Orchestre National de France and the London Symphony Orchestra.
In the early 2000s, Haitink recorded the complete Beethoven and Brahms symphony cycles with the London Symphony Orchestra for the LSO Live label.
In April 2006, after an acclaimed two-week engagement with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the orchestra appointed Haitink to the newly created position of principal conductor, effective as of the 2006 –2007 season. He declined an offer to be music director, citing his age. With respect to this contract, Haitink stated that 'every conductor, including myself, has a sell-by date.'
Haitink received an honorary Knighthood in 1977. In 2002, was made an Honorary Companion of Honour by HM the Queen. In the Netherlands he has been presented with the Honorary medal for Arts and Science of the Order of the House of Orange in 2000.
Haitink has five children from his first marriage to Marjolein Snijder. He and his fourth wife, the former Patricia Bloomfield (pictured) - a barrister and past viola player in the Covent Garden Opera orchestra - reside in Lucerne, Switzerland.