Hardly any other conductor of the older generation has shown like Bernard Haitink that a world career can succeed without airs and graces and authoritarian performances. He gained the trust of the members of symphony and opera orchestras through his expertise, the respect he showed musicians and his humble approach to the composers he admired. After early years as an orchestral musician, Haitink conducted the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in his home city of Amsterdam from 1961 to 1988. He later held leading positions at such major institutions as the Royal Opera House in London and the Staatskapelle in Dresden. After his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 1964, the conductor appeared regularly with the orchestra, not only in Berlin but also on concert tours, at the Salzburg Festival and in the European concert series. A few weeks after a moving performance of Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony with the Philharmoniker, Bernard Haitink announced his retirement from concert life.
This film portrait by Joost Honselaar and Hans Haffmans was made three years earlier. In conversations recorded in the familiar surroundings of his home in southern France, Haitink looks back on an artistic career spanning more than six decades. The artist’s modesty becomes as clear as his conviction that the masterpieces of musical history must be considered and mastered anew with every performance. The film – which also shows the conductor in concert and rehearsal recordings – was shot when Haitink was preparing a performance of Gustav Mahler’s Lied von der Erde with the Berliner Philharmoniker. The recording of this performance from October 2016 is available in the archive of the Digital Concert Hall.