Sir Bernard Heinze AC 1894 – 1982
- Sir Bernard Heinze AC 1894 – 1982
Sir Bernard Heinze AC 1894 – 1982
Bernard Thomas Heinze was born in the Victorian fruit-growing town of Shepparton on 1 July 1894.
On 10 December 1912 Heinze shared the stage of the Melbourne Town Hall with another young prodigy, soprano Gertrude Johnson (she was only a few months his senior).
In 1929 Heinze was appointed director-general of music for the newly formed National Broadcasting Service, 3LO and 3AR in Melbourne – the forerunner of the ABC.
Out of the musical wilderness
‘Not all players who worked with Bernard Heinze regarded him as a particularly talented conductor,’ recalled Charles Buttrose, a former ABC executive with special responsibility for music. ‘Some said they had difficulty in following his beat which was not always orthodox. But, whatever reservations musicians might have had about Heinze’s quality as a conductor, none has questioned his flair for playing to young audiences. His “Walk through the Orchestra”, during which he had the players demonstrate each instrument, fascinated his listeners and with the rest of the program enlivened by his simple but graphic and enlightening comment, he converted thousands of Australians into life-long music-lovers. Neville Amadio, for decades principal flute of the Sydney Symphony, says: ‘Australia had to have a Heinze, an innovator who would lead the country out of the musical wilderness.’
Bernard Thomas Heinze was born in the Victorian fruit-growing town of Shepparton on 1 July 1894. He grew up in Ballarat where he attended St. Patrick’s College. The choirmaster, Haydn West, recognised his musical talent and his parents, both accomplished amateur musicians, had him taught violin. In 1911 Heinze won a place at the University of Melbourne Conservatorium.
On 10 December 1912 Heinze shared the stage of the Melbourne Town Hall with another young prodigy, soprano Gertrude Johnson (she was only a few months his senior). The following year he won a scholarship that took him to the Royal College of Music in London. He was there when war broke out. After five years in the Royal Artillery he became a music critic for the Saturday Review and resumed his studies – in Paris with the violinist Nestor Lejeune and with Vincent d’Indy at the Schola Cantorum and, in Berlin, with the violinist Willy Hess. In 1922 he joined the Lejeune Quartet.
Heinze returned to Australia in 1923 and joined the staff of the University Conservatorium. His conducting career began the following year, when he formed the Melbourne University Symphony Orchestra, which he led for 10 years. With the USO he gave this country’s first concert specifically designed for young people. He was the Conservatorium’s Ormond Professor of Music from 1925 until 1956.
Heinze fostered an association with concert promoters J. & N. Tait, and through the 1920s his USO played for many of the Taits’ visiting artists, including Percy Grainger, Toti dal Monte and Feodor Chaliapine.
In 1929 Heinze was appointed director-general of music for the newly formed National Broadcasting Service, 3LO and 3AR in Melbourne – the forerunner of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Soon he was challenging Fritz Hart for the leadership of Melbourne’s musical life. In 1931 he and Hart were two of the eight pallbearers at Dame Nellie Melba’s funeral. Somehow, a few months later, he persuaded J.C. Williamson’s to dust off the costumes and scenery from the 1928 Melba season and, despite the Depression, mount three operas – Carmen, Tosca and Faust – at the Theatre Royal in Melbourne. The principal soprano and baritone, Alice Orff-Solscher and Franco Izal, were Conservatorium teachers, and the tenor, the Scot Joseph Hislop, was a J. & N. Tait concert artist. The enterprise was well received, though there were some reservations, particularly as Hislop sang in French, Orff-Solscher in German, Izal in Italian and almost everybody else in English. Heinze conducted – though he far preferred the concert platform to the out-of-sight confines of a cramped orchestra pit.
By now Heinze’s University Symphony Orchestra was competing with Fritz Hart’s MelbourneSymphony for dwindling audiences and increasingly scarce funding. The situation was resolved by businessman-philanthropist Sidney Myer who contributed a substantial subsidy on the proviso that the two orchestras amalgamate under university control, but carry the title Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Hart conceded defeat, and Heinze became conductor of the reconstituted MSO, a post he held from 1933 until 1953. As well, he was conductor for the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Society from 1927 until 1953.
Heinze was an enthusiastic supporter of Gertrude Johnson’s efforts to establish a National Theatre and in 1936 was the Movement’s inaugural vice president. In 1938 he travelled overseas to investigate the role of radio in promoting music. He was a judge at the Ysaye Competition in Brussels, and led orchestras in London, Paris, Zurich, Berlin, Budapest and in Helsinki, where he conducted Sibelius’ Second Symphony in the composer’s presence.
During the difficult years of the Second World War, Heinze was instrumental in keeping serious music-making alive and maintaining performance standards in Australia. After the war he encouraged the ABC to establish a symphony orchestra in every state. He appeared as guest conductor with all of them and persuaded the ABC to permit the Melbourne orchestra to play in the pit for Gertrude Johnson’s National Theatre Arts Festivals at the Princess – assignments the orchestra detested.
In 1947 Heinze conducted 17 concerts on a tour of Canada. In Melbourne he introduced the ABC Youth Concerts, designed for 16- to 25-year-olds; the innovation proved immensely popular. In 1949 Heinze was the first native-born Australian musician to be knighted. Later that year he was offered the conductorship of the ABC’s newly-formed Victorian Symphony Orchestra, but he declined, preferring to remain with the University.
In 1954 Heinze conducted portions of the Royal Gala Performance for the recently crowned Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip at the Tivoli Theatre in Sydney and at the subsequent State Reception at the Exhibition Building in Melbourne he introduced Clive Douglas’s symphonic poem Sturt 1829.
In 1956 the Melbourne and Sydney orchestras combined under Heinze’s baton for a special concert in the new Olympic Pool, part of the arts festival that complemented the Melbourne Olympics. The concert included the premiere performance of Clive Douglas’s joyous Olympic Overture.
The following year Heinze succeeded Eugene Goossens as director of the NSW State Conservatorium of Music. He held the position until 1966. That year he was appointed to the board of the Commonwealth Assistance to Australian Composers Scheme, which arranged the production of an important set of recordings designed to promote Australian music at home and overseas. To the astonishment of the musical community, Margaret Sutherland, one of this country’s most respected senior composers, was not represented – apparently the result of her steadily deteriorating relationship with Heinze. Sutherland was deeply hurt and never forgave him.
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
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