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Bernard Haitink: Celebrated classical conductor dies at age 92

The well-known Dutch conductor Bernard Haitink has died at his home in London at the age of 92.

He led the world’s best orchestras in London, Amsterdam, Chicago, and Dresden, in a career spanning 65 years.

Haitink, born in Amsterdam in 1929, won many awards and was an important figure in the British classical music scene.

Even in his final months on stage, his performances with the London Symphony Orchestra were described as “delightful”.

Haitink made more than 450 recordings and saw it as his task to embrace the orchestra without suffocating it.

His management company announced his passing late Thursday night, saying that one of the most celebrated conductors of his generation had passed away peacefully at his home.

It was in the Netherlands where Bernard Haitink forged his reputation as a conductor and began his musical career as a violinist after spending much of his childhood under Nazi occupation.

His big breakthrough came with the Radio Philharmonic and within six years he was asked to lead the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam.

For 27 years he was chief conductor, famous for his performances of Mahler and Bruckner. The Concertgebouw said on Friday it was mourning the loss of its “beloved, honorary conductor”.

“When he takes over, it’s like the electricity is on,” his wife Patricia once said. “When it’s over, he’ll face himself again.”

Haitink has performed with almost every major orchestra in the world, most notably in the UK with the London Philharmonic, Royal Opera, and Glyndebourne Festival Opera.

The Royal Opera House said that during his stint there from 1987-2002, he was best known for his portrayal of Wagner. Chief Executive Alex Beard spoke of a true gentleman whose “quiet authority and deep concern and respect for his fellow performers inspired beyond words”.

Haitink’s first Prom at the Royal Albert Hall was Bruckner’s 65-minute Seventh Symphony in 1966, and 53 years later he performed the same symphony there for the last time.

Haitink was known in the US for his time with the Chicago and Boston Symphony orchestras and in Germany for conducting the Staatskapelle Dresden and the Berliner Philharmoniker.

Staatskapelle chief conductor Christian Thielemann said Friday that he is “one of the most important conductors of our time”.

The Dutch royal family said in a statement that Haitink’s “drive and musical finesse are unforgettable”, revealing the souls of composers such as Mahler, Bruckner, Beethoven, and many others.