Le COE et Bernard Haitink

The COE and Bernard Haitink

« [Avec le COE] Je n’ai plus l’impression d’être un chef d’orchestre. Je redeviens un musicien qui fait de la musique avec eux. Ils se respectent, s’apprécient énormément, ils adorent la musique et je trouve que travailler avec eux est incroyablement rafraîchissant. Dans la mesure où le Chamber Orchestra of Europe est d’une taille réduite, on peut vraiment aller au coeur des choses, ce qui est très intéressant. Je les adore. »

BBC Proms 2015, pour BBC Four Television

« Cet Orchestre est le plus beau cadeau des années les plus récentes de ma carrière. »

Festival d’Eté de Lucerne 2014

« Le Chamber Orchestra of Europe est très sensible: il réagit immédiatement. Plus qu’un simple orchestre, il s’agit d’un groupe de musiciens d’un niveau exceptionnel. En véritables chambristes, ils sont habitués à s’écouter, sans se focaliser exclusivement sur le chef d’orchestre. Cela correspond exactement à l’idée que je me suis toujours faite de la direction d’orchestre. »

Pour Le Figaro, 19/01/2011

« J’aimerais seulement dire que c’est un immense plaisir pour moi de travailler avec ces musiciens. Ils sont uniques. Cet orchestre a 30 ans et bien entendu, il comprend de nombreux nouveaux membres, plus jeunes, mais ils ont réussi à garder le même enthousiasme et l’extrême professionalisme que beaucoup d’orchestres peuvent leur envier. Travailler avec eux me comble! »


It was with immense sadness that we received the news of Bernard Haitink’s passing on 21 October 2021. An Honorary Member of the COE, Bernard Haitink held a very special place in all the players’ hearts. We had been working closely together from 2008 until he retired in 2019 and appeared regularly at the Lucerne Festival, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and also the BBC Proms in London. We have put together a list of our performances over the years and have collected heart-felt testimonials from the COE players below in memory of Bernard, who said about the Orchestra:

Of all the ensembles I work with, they [COE] are on top. It is a group of wonderful musicians who are not bound to regulations, and their freshness of music making is really amazing. It is so easy to work with them. I am full of praise. It is wonderful each time to see them again and to make music together. That is for me the most important thing. COE has influenced me enormously and therefore it is sort of a healing retreat for me. I love making music together, that is my credo.

Images are stronger than words so if you would like to find out more about our special relationship with Bernard Haitink, please watch this short video:


The COE and Bernard Haitink

Working with Bernard was always a great masterclass in the art of simplicity: less was more, he spoke as little as possible relying instead on gesture and the force of his presence to convey beauty, line, balance and architecture through a magical, almost telepathic communication with us, his players. It was something we could all feel but never really grasp how he achieved it. His unusual combination of modesty, almost to the point of self-deprecation, and real authority commanded enormous respect from his musicians. A colleague once remarked that, because he never looked quite satisfied with what he heard, one had the urge to play better for him just to make him happy!

We have been so lucky to have had the chance to perform with a musician of such integrity, who has had a lifetime of working at the highest level, with the greatest orchestras and soloists. To have known him towards the end of his life and be able to benefit from his vast musical knowledge and experience was a wonderful opportunity for all in COE.

Richard Lester, COE Co-Principal Cello

Bernard was, to me, “la Gentilezza”.
Gentilezza in the very first meaning of this word: the capacity of bringing virtues and feelings to the highest level.
I not only had the privilege to share a fundamental part of my music-making path with this incredible musician. At the same time I met a person that would take care of me and share friendship, respect and support. Behind the naturalness and essentiality of his conducting gestures there was a giant of music. Behind his way of respecting, loving and supporting the people around him, a real and loyal friend.
In these very sad days I am studying Schumann’s Second Symphony, a piece we played together several times. Inside this music there is a world of memories. I meet him again here and there across the score. He is for example always there, as he used to do, at the very end of the scherzo, after the last closing arpeggio of the violins, throwing us a kiss with that unusually exuberant, but still very elegant, gesture of excitement. I keep it preciously in my heart. I am so strongly missing the musician. So painfully missing the friend.

Lorenza Borrani, COE Leader

Marieke Blankestijn, COE Associate Leader
Iris Juda, COE Violin
Maria Kubizek, COE Violin
Rachel Frost, COE Second Oboe and Cor Anglais
Josine Buter, COE Second Flute
Claudia Hofert, COE Viola
Steven Wright, COE Viola
Fiona Brett, COE Violin

In the context of the BBC Proms 2015, Bernard Haitink tells the BBC about his special relationship with the COE.

Bernard Haitink and the COE rehearse in advance of their concerts at the Barbican in June 2014. The video also includes excerpts of Bernard Haitink's interview with Sean Rafferty for BBC Radio 3.

The COE and Bernard Haitink in Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, Salle Pleyel, 5 March 2012

The COE, Bernard Haitink and the Netherlands' Radio Choir in Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, Salle Pleyel, 5 March 2012



Below is a list of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe’s tours and performances with Bernard Haitink through the years.


June: Tour to the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Germany and the UK with Michele de Young, performing works by Mozart, Wagner and Brahms.

2008 and 2009

Beethoven cycle at the Lucerne Festival in March and September 2008 and March/April 2009, with world-class soloists Sir Andras Schiff, Radu Lupu, Frank Peter Zimmermann, Christian Poltera, Lars Vogt and Maria João Pires.

2010 and 2011

Brahms cycle at the Lucerne Festival in November 2010 (Lucerne Piano Festival), April (Lucerne Easter Festival) and August 2011 (Lucerne Summer Festival), with acclaimed soloists Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos, Sally Matthews, Christian Gerhaher, Renaud and Gautier Capuçon.

All-Brahms concerts at the BBC Proms in London with Emanuel Ax (Symphonies Nos. 1-4 and Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2)

2011 and 2012

Beethoven symphony cycle in January 2011 and February/March 2012 at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the Salle Pleyel in Paris, featuring singers Jessica Rivera, Karen Cargill, Roberto Sacca and Hanno Müller-Brachmann with the Groot Omroepkoor in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

In November, two concerts with pianost Jean-Yves Thibaudet at the Lucerne Piano Festival in works by Ravel and Mozart.


All-Brahms concerts in June at the Alte Oper in Frankfurt and then at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw in November. On of the concerts at the Concertgebouw was in celebration of the hall’s 125th anniversary and the COE and Bernard Haitink were joined by Janine Jansen. The second concert featured Renaud and Gautier Capuçon.

2014 – Bernard Haitink turns 85

In April,  all-Schumann concerts at the Lucerne Easter Festival and at the Stadtcasino in Basel with Gautier Capuçon.

In June, concerts at London’s Barbican Centre with Isabelle Faust and Jean-Yves Thibaudet in celebration of Bernard Haitink’s 85th birthday, with programmes including works by Ravel, Mozart, Schumann, Berg and Beethoven.

In August, all-Schumann concerts at the Lucerne Summer Festival with Isabelle Faust and Murray Perahia.

Brahms cycle – all symphonies and all piano concertos – in November with Emanuel Ax in Paris and Amsterdam.


Concerts at the BBC Proms in London and at the Lucerne Summer Festival with Maria João Pires and Isabelle Faust.

Tour to Vienna, Lugano and Amsterdam with Murray Perahia and Gautier Capuçon in all-Schumann concerts in November.


All-Dvorak concerts in August/September at the Lucerne Summer Festival with Alicia Weilerstein and Isabelle Faust.


In January, concerts at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam with Kristian Bezuidenhout and Alina Ibragimova in works by Schubert and Mozart.

Performances in July at the BBC Proms in London with Isabelle Faust and in August at the Lucerne Summer Festival with Christian Gerhaher and Anna Lucia Richter.

Concerts in Luxemburg and Amsterdam in November with Anna-Lucia Richter and Hanno Müller-Brachmann performing Mahler’s Lieder from ‘Des Knaben Wunderhorn’ in two of the four concerts, and Eva-Maria Westbroek singing Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder in the other two. The repertoire also included Mozart’s Symphony Nos. 35 ‘Haffner’, 36 ‘Linzer’ and 38 ‘Prague’.


Concerts at the Lucerne Summer Festival with Sir András Schiff and Alina Ibragimova.

2019 – Bernard Haitink turns 90

Tour in February in celebration of Bernard Haitink’s 90th birthday with concerts in Cologne and Luxemburg, performing works by Schumann and Beethoven with Gautier Capuçon.

Last ever project with Bernard Haitink at the Lucerne Summer Festival in August, as he retired from conducting in September. The programme was Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, featuring soprano Anna Lucia Richter.

For more details on these projects, please visit our Calendar section and type in ‘Haitink’ in the search bar at the bottom of the page. The search results can also be viewed here.



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