Classic Mornings

Haitink So


Yes, it’s an awful pun. Yet maybe it’ll help you remember that whenever I’m considering recordings of orchestral works, I‘ll check out those led by the Dutch conductor more often than not.

For one thing, there’s a lot to choose from. Bernard Haitink has had quite a career. But that only seems to have given him more opportunities to downplay his resume.  A decade ago, when he was serving as principal conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, he told Tom Service of The Guardian in London: “These things are never planned, but things just happen to me – I’m not a chess player.”

Many things have happened to Haitink over the years – good things!  At age 25 he was a violinist with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra while studying conducting. Within a couple of years, he became the principal conductor of that orchestra. He filled in at the last minute for Carlo Maria Giulini in a concert featuring the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam. That earned him invitations to be a regular guest conductor. By age 31, he was the youngest ever principal conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. He held that post from 1961-1988.

Besides the Concertgebouw and the CSO,  Haitink has been at the helm of orchestras and opera companies in London and Dresden. And after his legendary tenure in Amsterdam, it should come as no surprise that he’s conductor laureate of his home town orchestra.

Haitink turned 90 on March 4th.  And his legacy continues to “march forth.”  10 years ago, Haitink told Tom Service that every conductor has a “sell-by date.” But the crowds keep coming back for more. Maybe they just want every last bit of Haitink they can get.

A quick check online revealed an impressive number of 90th birthday celebration concert engagements, including those with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Yet it was made clear at each of the websites that Haitink will take a sabbatical at the end of the current season.

Within a week of Haitink turning 90, two well-known 89-year-old musicians passed away. On February 28th André Previn died. The Guardian’s Imogen Tilden recalled the years when he headed the London Symphony Orchestra and had a weekly television show. She noted that the show had a larger audience than the total turnout of 65 separate concerts.

Previn as conductor, pianist and composer pleased the crowds with an impressive number of recordings as well. That included his many film soundtracks.

Organist Peter Hurford passed away on March 5th at age 89. Hurford is remembered for having recorded the complete organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach. He also was an admired interpreter of 18th-century French organ music.

Hurford championed authentic performance practices. He suggested not only re-examining the way that Baroque organ music is performed, but altering modern instruments to accommodate works by Bach, Handel and their contemporaries.

During his tenure as music master at St. Alban’s Cathedral – located some 20 miles northwest of London, Hurford founded the St. Alban’s International Organ Festival. He continues to be associated with that festival and with the organ competition which it inspired.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa continues to be associated with the 1981 wedding of Charles and Diana, at which she sang. The international television audience for the wedding was 14 million households. A couple of years later, the New Zealand-born soprano made a recording of orchestral settings by French composer Joseph Canteloube of French folk songs from the region known as the Auvergne. One of those Chants d’Auvergne titled Baïleró, was released as a pop single in Britain. She topped the best-seller charts with it.

Dame Kiri turned 75 on March 6th.  The opera singer and recitalist retired from singing just two years ago. But she continues to assist singers and musicians in New Zealand as a teacher and through the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation, which she established 15 years ago.

As it turns out, she was born during the centennial year of the Spanish violin virtuoso and composer Pablo de Sarasate and the Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. We just celebrated their 175th birthday anniversaries on March 10th and 18th.

Celebrations have always been a part of Classic Mornings. Join us Monday through Friday from 9 to noon on FM 90.9 or online at!