Conductors: The Diffident Dutchman

The stage was set for a real-life version of the scene in which the Unknown Young Musician gets his Big Break, triumphs, and rockets to international fame. But the hero balked.

Amsterdam's renowned, 78-year-old Concertgebouw Orchestra, on the eve of a 1956 performance of the Cherubini Requiem in C Minor, desperately needed a substitute for ailing Conductor Carlo Maria Giulini; it turned to 27year-old Bernard Haitink, an assistant conductor and former second violinist of the Dutch Radio Orchestra, who had led the work not long before. "No," replied Haitink. "I'm not ready, and anyway, I'd like to stay alive." Hotter...

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