High honour awarded to honorary conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
On 16 February 2017 Bernard Haitink was promoted to Commander of the Order of Lion of the Netherlands, one of the highest and oldest civil orders in the Netherlands. Now eighty-seven, the honorary conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra received the royal honour from Kajsa Ollongren, deputy mayor of the city of Amsterdam. The distinction was conferred on him following a concert marking Maestro Haitink’s sixty-year-long relationship with the orchestra. The conductor first led the orchestra in the season of 1956–57, and has made great contributions to the musical life of the Netherlands and to that of the international community ever since. The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra felt that this anniversary presented the perfect opportunity to thank its honorary conductor and to honour him for all his many accomplishments.
The title of Commander is only rarely granted and is reserved exclusively for those individuals whose contributions to society are of an exceptional nature. It was recently granted to Ben Feringa, scientist and winner of the Nobel Prize. Previous recipients include the writers Gerard Reve and Harry Mulisch and the painter Karel Appel.
Maestro Haitink’s extraordinary significance is clear. One of the world’s leading conductors, commanding a broad repertoire, he served as chief conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra from 1961 to 1988. Countless music lovers all over the world were introduced to the close relationship between the orchestra and its chief conductor thanks to their radio and television broadcasts, tours and many award-winning recordings. Maestro Haitink was appointed honorary conductor of the orchestra in 1999. He is also a welcome guest conductor with other leading orchestras, including those of Berlin, Boston and Chicago. His special contributions include a focus on young talent, which he develops by leading international youth orchestras, giving masterclasses and supporting young colleagues.
Throughout his career, Maestro Haitink has been the recipient of numerous distinctions both in and outside the Netherlands. He was made an Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau in 1969, and a Commander of the same order upon relinquishing his post with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1988. Back in 1980, he was made a Knight of the Order of the Lion of the Netherlands. He was awarded the Erasmus Prize in 1991. In 2002, he was made an Honorary Companion of Honour by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Last autumn he received the Edison Classical Oeuvre Prize for his extensive discography.