Photo of Bernard Haitink, principal conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. [CRI]
Principal conductor Bernard Haitink will lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) on a concert tour of Beijing on February 13 and 14. Showcasing the music of Mahler, Haydn and Bruckner, this tour marks both the orchestra's and Haitink's debut performance in the Chinese mainland. Follow us to find more about Haitink.
Q: About the choice of repertoire
A: "It's a mutual thing. For the go-on tour, we must use the repertoire we have built during the last two seasons, because there is not enough time to rehearse. And we also want to present the orchestra in the best possible way, and the piece that you have played several times now, and let everybody feels at home. So that is the reason why Mahler Sixth is one of the pieces of this tour."...these are the programs that we feel at home with We want to present these pieces that's typical repertoire where the Chicago symphony is at home.
Q: You have released two albums of Mahler's symphonies. Why?
A: That is very long time ago the first album was released, and seven pieces I believe, and the other album was in the 80s, now we are in 2009, so that is very much... for me, history...
Q: You have released lots of recordings. Is there any special work or a composer that takes you longer time to make the album?
A : I always try to record repertoire which I feel at home best, I never like to record a piece that hasn't been performed, nowadays it is very often the case, I always try to record pieces that have been played more than once, several times in a concert hall or in a theater.
Q: When is comes to symphonies or operas, which do you prefer to conduct? - What's the difference between a symphony and an opera?
A: I cannot answer that. I mean most important things to do, (Beethoven symphonies are just not getting along.) Opera is always more complicated, because your have the singer, you have to find the right cast, so definitely, opera is more difficult to organize it, to get the right people ...sing the right tones. Symphony is a different thing; you are together with your orchestra, you have played the symphony several times. In my case I've made live recordings, I've made recordings during concerts which in a way is the ideal way, because then you get a real feeling of the performance, the spontaneity, so opera is more complicated.
Q: You once stated in 2004 that you would no longer conduct opera, how come you later contradict yourself?
A: I think we all have the right to contradicted ourselves. Even if I don't have that right, I contradicted myself. These were two offers which intrigued me in Paris, Zurich and in London. I have to say it gave me a lot of satisfaction. But I don't make a habit connect to opera any more. I do it , well, when it comes my way, and I like to do it, but I am not connected to an opera house anymore, when I said I will not conduct opera from now on, I meant I will not connect myself to an opera house.
Q: Most important concert in your whole career?
A: I really cannot say. I believe strongly in what I have to do at the moment, at that moment that connection is with The Chicago symphony and that gives me enormous pleasure, enormous artistic satisfaction. I find it wonderful to work with the orchestra and I cannot start saying this concert or that concert was better that I won't do.
Q: Perspective as to the trends and future development of classical music?
A: I think that classic music is here and will stay, I remember when I started a long time ago in 1960, people are forecasting that, classical music was dead, and now we are in 2009, and classical music is still alive and I think that is the future Music will be there as long as there are orchestras people will come, maybe different sort of people, but music will stay on. It is too important to human life to declare it dead, I don't do that.
Q: After being involved with music for over 50 years, how do you see your future musical career?
A: That's not for me to comment on, that's for other people... I enjoy my work, I enjoy working with orchestra musicians...that is for me one of the joys of my life. performed with an enormous amount of wonderful compositions, I work with very many interesting people, interesting soloists and I feel very privileged And it doesn't have to do with age, it is how it is. I love music, I love the people who I have to make music with.
Q: Young people today prefer pop music to classical music, would musicians win back young people to classical music?
A: I'm not sure, I never count the audience who is old, who is young, and who is middle-aged. My impression is, I always make music for very mixed audiences and when I conduct for example in a summer season at the promenade concert at the Albert hall in London, there are so many young people, I don't see the problem. Of course, pop different is highly popular and a totally different approach to music… but it is an approach and people like that. I don't believe in trying too much to attract young people to the concert, they must come because they want to hear it, they are curious, there should not be obligation, it should be free, I think it is very important that human beings are free to have their own choices, and that also comes for music, so if people want to come, just come, that's fine, it they don't want it, that's their choice, be there may come a time when they are able and willing to come.
Q: On expectations about young conductors.
A: There are some very talented young conductors, but I am not willing to mention names, if I forgot that would be unfair. More important thing is what they do, if they are in the hands of the media which these days it is very dangerous. As a young talent who has rushed into fame, I look back into myself early 60's, I started far too young with a famous orchestra. The media at that time was not that intrusive, so I had time to develop. That is very important.
But nowadays, if a young conductor shows talent, you can see immediately the next day on television, there's a danger, that his whole attitude, his whole choice for what to do with the music is dictated by the media and that is a big danger, I know young colleges who are in principle very talented. I work with young students every year and it always strikes me that they have seen all the videos of Karajan, Bernstein, etc… but the danger is they don't try to find their own way, they try to imitate these masters, that will never work, it is impossible. But I am not going to mention names because I will easily forget one name and it would be very bad but I am interested in young conductors. I have a very talented young conductor at the moment who I think will have a very good career but let's be happy that there are young talents.
Q: What makes the Chicago Symphony Orchestra so unique?
A: It's very difficult to say in words, people should listen to it then they will know what CSO is. For me it is a highly committed, motivated musical ensemble, but music comes first. Highly disciplined but just to make good music and that is a joy to work with these people. I believe strongly in them, and I think they are one of the top orchestras in the world. But also I don't want to go on ... what I don't like is classical music, the orchestra world, the instrumental world, becomes a sort of Olympic games where you say that is the best orchestra, the fastest the loudest, it has nothing to do with music. Every ensemble should be rated on its intensity on it's love of making music. And I only can say that for me the Chicago is there on top."