Bernard Haitink was born in Amsterdam and his interest in music was first stimulated when, as a child, he would go to hear concerts given by the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra under Willem Mengelberg. At the age of nine he started to have violin lessons, which he continued at the Amsterdam Conservatory, where he also studied conducting with Felix Hupka. He joined the Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra as a violinist but in 1954 and 1955 attended the annual courses for conductors organised by the Netherlands Radio Union, at which he studied with Ferdinand Leitner. This experience led directly to his appointment in 1955 as second conductor with the Union, sharing responsibility for four radio orchestras.
Mr. Haitink first attracted attention when in 1956 he substituted for Carlo Maria Giulini in a performance of Cherubini’sRequiem with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, as a result of which he was invited to be a guest conductor at some of the orchestra’s regular concerts. Having become principal conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra in the following year, he made his American debut in 1958, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, and first appeared in Britain in 1959, on a tour with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, with whom he made his first recording during the same year.
Haitink has been such a ubiquitous figure in European and American musical life that it has been easy to take him for granted; this is to do him a major injustice. As his extensive recorded repertoire demonstrates, he stands in the direct line of the great European conductors of earlier generations such as Richter, Nikisch, Weingartner and Mengelberg.