R.I.P. Bernard Haitink (1929-2021)

Renowned conductor Bernard Haitink passed away on 21st October at the age of 92. It’s hard to pick one piece to commemorate such a distinguished career in music so I’m not going to try to be objective. Some time ago I bought the complete set of Mahler Symphonies performed by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1966 with Haitink at the helm and I think their performance of Mahler Symphony No. 3 is up there with the very best.

It’s interesting that as recently as 2018, another performance of Mahler 3 directed by Haitink won the BBC Recording of the Year. There is also a complete live performance from 1983 on Youtube which I was tempted to post here but the whole Symphony is about 100 minutes long so I decided instead to just post an excerpt which, fortunately, someone has already put on Youtube.

Here’s just one movement – the sixth and last – from that epic work. This movement is marked langsam which basically means “slow” but I think many conductors take this movement too slowly. Haitink for me judges the pace perfectly. There’s an overwhelming sense of catharsis at the climax of this movement.

R.I.P. Bernard Haitink (1929-2021)

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