The pre-eminent maestro of our day, caught in little-known studio recordings from the very beginning of his career, including first releases on CD of Beethoven and Mendelssohn recordings.
In an original and valuable documentary essay which serves as the booklet note, Niek Nelissen outlines the rapid and unlikely genesis of Haitink’s career, from being rejected by Willem van Otterloo to taking over the reins of the Concertgebouw within less than a decade. He first stood in front of the orchestra in 1956, and five years later he was leading them on tours to the US and Japan.
Following these tours, Philips recorded the partnership in two symphonies which had already become signature works for the young maestro, Beethoven’s Eighth (in July 1962) and Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ (February 1963). Hearing the Eighth in New York, the doyen of local critics Harold Schonberg remarked upon it as ‘clean-cut Beethoven … precisely adjusted and handsomely executed’. According to Schonberg, Haitink ‘makes music with plenty of ardor, a good deal of polish and all the temperament one could desire.’
In fact, these are some of Haitink’s earliest recordings with an orchestra he would lead for the next 35 years as music director date from 1960, during the interim period after the sudden death of Eduard van Beinum when he shared duties with Eugen Jochum. There is more Mendelssohn here – the Hebrides Overture, in a performance issued on CD for the first time, as acutely sensitive to the composer’s tone-painting as we have come to expect from Haitink, and a local rarity on disc, the Symphonic Etude by Hendrik Andriessen. Composed in 1952, this deliciously poised ten-minute essay deploys twelve-tone technique in a post-Impressionist idiom through its four sections, and serves as a reminder that alongside his mastery of the symphonic tradition from Haydn to Shostakovich, Haitink was always a committed interpreter of the music of our time.