Sir Bernard Heinze AC 1894-1982

Sir Bernard Heinze

Sir Bernard Heinze

On a Sunday afternoon in 1972 Heinze led the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in the very first concert in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, in a special presentation for construction workers and their families.

He was 87 when he died in Melbourne on 10 June 1982. Malcolm Williamson wrote In Thanksgiving, Bernard Heinze in his memory.

 

In contrast, Heinze espoused the worked of many other local composers. He commissioned
Peter Sculthorpe’s Sun Music I for the 1965 Commonwealth Arts Festival, and Sculthorpe dedicated the piece to him. Heinze also commissioned Sculthorpe’s Anniversary Music for the 20th anniversary of the ABC’s Youth Music series. Later, renamed Sun Music III, it was a highlight when, on a Sunday afternoon in 1972 Heinze led the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in the very first concert in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, in a special presentation for construction workers and their families.

In 1974 Bernard Heinze was celebrated as Australian of the Year. His ‘eminent achievement and merit of the highest degree in the field of music’ was recognised in 1976, when he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia. He received the UNESCO International Music Award in 1979.

Heinze never really retired. Though increasingly frequent illnesses forced the cancellation of concert engagements, he continued to serve on various committees and, behind the scenes, to cajole, advise and encourage. He was 87 when he died in Melbourne on 10 June 1982. Malcolm Williamson wrote In Thanksgiving, Bernard Heinze in his memory.

Heinze’s repertoire was extensive, but his great strength was music in the Romantic tradition, especially the work of composers such as Elgar, Richard Strauss and Mahler. Among the works he premiered in Australia were Copland’s El Salon Mexico, Holst’s Somerset Rhapsody, Shostakovich’s Symphonies 7 and 11, Britten’s Violin Concerto, Schönberg’s Ode to Napoleon, Rachmaninov’s The Isle of the Dead, Richard Strauss’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Bainton’s Symphony 3, Milhaud’s Piano Concerto 3, Walton’s Partita and Symphony 2, and Bartók’s Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra. Sadly Heinze recorded infrequently, and his music-making is not represented on available CDs.

But perhaps Heinze’s greatest contribution was the audience that he nurtured and built. Several generations of Australian youngsters were introduced to classical music by Bernard Heinze and the concerts he designed for them. Today’s dedicated, dynamic audience for good music can be largely attributed to his energy, commitment and enthusiasm.

In 1985 the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Subscribers’ Committee launched an appeal to endow the annual Sir Bernard Heinze Memorial Award for a person who has made an outstanding contribution to music in Australia. Recipients have included Don Banks, Don Burrows, Sir Frank Callaway, John Curro, Richard Divall, Richard Gill, Kenneth Hince, John Hopkins, Yvonne Kenny, Beryl Kimber, Graeme Koehne, Peter Sculthorpe, Jan Sedivka, Patrick Thomas, Richard Tognetti and Graham Abbott. In addition, the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Society presents an annual Sir Bernard Heinze Memorial Concert.

Heinze died only five months before the opening of the Melbourne Concert Hall – now Hamer Hall. The Hall’s luxurious Conductor’s Suite was named in his honour. Unfortunately it’s next door to the Concert Master’s – which is named for composer Margaret Sutherland.

Frank Van Straten, 2007

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Biographical references

Stella M. Barber: Crescendo, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, 2007
Charles Buttrose: Playing for Australia, Macmillan, 1982
Marc Fiddian: ‘Sir Bernard, the Maestro’, in Parade, February 1974
J.L. Holmes: ‘Sir Bernard Thomas Heinze’, in The Oxford Companion to Australian Music, Oxford University Press, 1997
Thérèse Radic: Bernard Heinze, Macmillan, 1986
David Symons: The Music of Margaret Sutherland, Currency Press, 1997