"No," says Bernard Haitink, "I will not be doing Liszt in 1986."
The music director of the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, on the phone from Brazil, explains that he has no plans to return to his repertory, or that of his orchestra, the 14 tone-poems of Franz Liszt. Some years ago, they recorded those works; now, it would seem appropriate, for the Liszt centennial year of 1986, to revive them.
"When I recorded those works," Haitink continues, "and it was a long time ago, I tried to believe in them. After all, Liszt was a very interesting, Romantic figure. But now, I would find it more difficult." The tone of his voice indicates that the subject is closed.
When he first visited Southern California, as a replacement conductor on the podium of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in January, 1958, Bernard Haitink was an unknown but very promising young Dutch conductor, just two months short of his 29th birthday.
FOR THE RECORD - IMPERFECTIONS
Los Angeles Times Sunday October 6, 1985 Home Edition Calendar Page 91 Calendar Desk 2 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
Richard Cibener of Los Angeles says Bernard Haitink recorded the complete tone-poems of Liszt and most of the Shostakovich symphonies with the London Philharmonic, not the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, as Daniel Cariaga wrote on Sept. 25.
Tonight, 27 1/2 years and numerous visits later, Haitink and the Concertgebouw Orchestra open the 1985-86 Ambassador Auditorium season. And Haitink has earned a special, and exalted, place in the world of symphonic and operatic music.
Since 1964, he has been the sole permanent music director/conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, only the fourth musician to hold that post in the 97-year history of the ensemble. Since 1972, he has been music director at the Glyndebourne Festival in England; in 1988, he is scheduled to become music director of the Royal Opera, Covent Garden.
Despite his personal modesty and non-flamboyant podium style, Haitink's reputation is sterling; he has been called "the most solidly and consistently esteemed conductor of our day."
Still, even the most esteemed musicians must tour; taking one's skills and art to the corners of the earth remains one of the prices such performers pay for their stature and celebrity.
On the way to Pasadena, Haitink and his Dutch ensemble have spent two weeks in South America. Speaking from Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Saturday, the 56-year-old conductor discussed, among other subjects, changes he has noted in his audiences during these three decades.
"They are probably better," he observed, optimistically. "That's a sweeping statement, but generally true. This is our second tour to South America--we were last here 14 years ago--and I find the audiences just as receptive, if not more so.
"The change is, I think, that there are more young people coming to our concerts than formerly. That is very encouraging. Tonight, for example, we have sold out our 6 o'clock concert--perhaps because of the early hour. Usually, concerts here are at 9 o'clock."
Three years ago, a damper on the Concertgebouw's United States tour was the threat of funding cutbacks by the Dutch ministry of cultural affairs, sole financial support of the orchestra. Can one assume that those threats no longer exist?
"Oh, no, there are still dark clouds," the soft-spoken former violinist replies. He explains that no overt budget cutbacks have as yet materialized, but that a certain amount of bureaucratic attrition may accomplish the same ends.
"When we lose a first-desk player through retirement or resignation, there is no problem--the funds for a replacement are allowed. But when a vacancy occurs among the rank-and-file players, we are not allowed to fill it. This is a very poor situation.
"The solution may have to be in finding sponsors--private, commercial sponsors--for the orchestra. Of course, we realize this solution brings with it many new problems."
In the meantime, Haitink's first concern, maintaining the quality of the orchestra, seems to have been taken care of. Among other recent accomplishments he might mention, the conductor points to the ensemble's completion in 1984 of a recording project devoted to the complete symphonies of Dmitri Shostakovich.
"This is a tremendous enrichment of our repertory," Haitink observes. "Though not every one of these works may be a masterpiece, Shostakovich is undoubtedly the last of the great symphonic composers. At least, the next one doesn't seem to have arrived. . . . "