Bernard Haitink celebrates 50th anniversary of his BBC Proms debut

Proms audiences, Radio 3 listeners and BBC Four viewers are in for a treat on Friday 29 July as Bernard Haitink takes to the podium to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra and Sarah Connolly in a performance of Mahler’s Third Symphony to mark the 50th Anniversary of his Proms debut.

Bernard Haitink’s first performance at the Proms took place on 22 August 1966, where he conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra in Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony. This was the first of an astonishing 87 performances to date as Bernard comments in a recent interview with Fiona Maddocks for the BBC Proms Guide:

“The Royal Albert Hall is such a special place. I’ve seen soloists come to it for the first time and they look at that huge space and can’t believe that, later that evening, it will be full. It’s totally unique. As a foreigner I can say that! I started listening to the Proms in the 1940s, when it was forbidden [during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands]. The Proms had nights dedicated to one composer. I remember conductors like Basil Cameron [who conducted more than 400 Proms between 1941 and 1964]. That’s a long time ago …”

Bernard’s Proms have included 17 Bruckner symphonies, 16 Mahler symphonies, 13 operas, several large-scale works and one First Night! He first conducted Mahler’s Third Symphony at the 1971 Proms. He says of the symphony:

“Mahler’s Third is in many ways a very spectacular piece,” he reflects. “It is so diverse. The first movement is the difficult one, especially for an audience that doesn’t know it well. It’s nearly half an hour long. There are many people at the Proms who are new to the festival, new to music … I hope they will try it. After that it becomes very fascinating and idyllic, with the horn solo and the posthorn. And then there’s the wonderful last-movement Adagio. It’s Mahler at his best, one of the most beautiful things he ever wrote. And as a performer you don’t make it too sentimental. That’s another thing. He was not a happy man. He was always trying to achieve things and made tremendous enemies, especially in Vienna, at the time a city full of intrigues …”

This is not the only celebration this summer as Bernard conducts his 50th concert at the Lucerne Festival on Friday 19 August to mark the 50th anniversary of his debut there. He will lead the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in a performance of Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony. During the next two months, Bernard will appear twice more at the Festival with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and on tour with the EUYO. We wish Bernard a wonderful summer!


reproduced with kind permission from the 2016 Proms Guide

87 Proms appearances to date, conducting…

13 orchestras
33 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra
14 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra
14 with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
5 with the European Union Youth Orchestra
4 with the London Symphony Orchestra
3 with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe
2 with the Berlin Philharmonic
2 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra
2 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
2 with the Dresden Staatskapelle
2 with the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
2 with the Philharmonia Orchestra
2 with the Vienna Philharmonic

Proms performances include

17 Bruckner symphonies
16 Mahler symphonies
13 Operas: Bizet ‘Carmen’ (1985); Debussy ‘Pelléas et Mélisande’ (1976); Haydn ‘La fedeltà premiata’ (1979); Mozart ‘Così fan tutte’ (1978), ‘Don Giovanni’ (1977), ‘The Magic Flute’ (1973, 1980), ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ (1984); Verdi ‘Don Carlos’ (1996), ‘Falstaff’ (1988), ‘Simon Boccanegra’ (1986), ‘La traviata’ (1987); Stravinsky ‘The Rake’s Progress’ (1975)

Large-scale choral works include 

Britten’s ‘War Requiem’ (1976); Beethoven’s ‘Missa solemnis’ for Haitink’s only appearance at the First Night of the Proms (1997)

Proms with soloists including

Singers Sir Thomas Allen, Elly Ameling, Janet Baker, Maria Ewing, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Peter Pears; Violinists Norbert Brainin, Rodney Friend, Ida Haendel, Thomas Zehetmair; Pianists Emanuel Ax, Alfred Brendel, Clifford Curzon, Hélène Grimaud, Murray Perahia, Maria João Pires


Extract from interview with Fiona Maddocks and statistics reproduced from the 2016 Proms Guide, with kind permission from the BBC Proms. To read the full article, buy the guide here

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