Van Beinum, Philharmonic Director, Dies at Rehearsal

Van Beinum, Philharmonic Director, Dies at Rehearsal
A portrait of conductor Eduard van Beinum. (Los Angeles Philharmonic)

Dr. Eduard van Beinum, world – famed symphony conductor whose return as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra this fall was eagerly awaited, died of a heart attack yesterday in Amsterdam.

Dr. Van Beinum, 59, took a year's leave of absence on orders of his physician in 1958 after two highly successful seasons as leader of the Philharmonic here.


He returned to his native Holland with plans to rest by cutting in half his scheduled 80 conducting performances with the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, with which he had been associated 27 years.

Falls to Floor

Four weeks ago Dr. Van Beinum became ill with what was diagnosed as a minor heart disease. His doctors allowed him to resume conducting only last week, and he conducted the first concert since his illness in The Hague last Saturday. He had been rehearsing the orchestra about 45 minutes yesterday for a program last night when he told the men he needed a break and that an assistant conductor would take over. Before he could leave the podium he slid from the conductor's seat to the floor and died.

Among the orchestra members was his 29-year-old son Bartholemeus, a violinist. He also leaves his widow, the former Sepha Jansen, also a talented violinist, and another son, Eduard, 31, an organist at the college in Nymwegen, Holland.

'Great Conductor'

"A great conductor and a fine human being has been lost to the world," said Mrs. Norman Chandler, president of the Southern California Symphony Assn.

"Southern California feels privileged to have had at least a brief period to enjoy and appreciate his musicianship and personal warmth."

Dr. Van Beinum was engaged in 1956 by the Southern California Symphony Assn. to succeed the retiring Alfred Wallenstein as the sixth permanent conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic since its founding in 1919.

L.A. Debut in 1955

He had won wide acclaim when he brought the famed Concertgebouw group to this country in 1954. He returned for guest appearances with the Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago and San Francisco orchestras.

Dr. Van Beinum made his Los Angeles debut as guest conductor of the Philharmonic in Hollywood Bowl in the summer of 1955. He returned as guest conductor of a series of concerts in Philharmonic Auditorium in 1956.

As a result of his guest appearances in this country, the distinguished conductor was flooded with offers to stay, but Los Angeles landed him to share his duties with the Concertgebouw.

Large Audiences


Dr. Van Beinum conducted eight weeks of concerts in January and February, 1957, in his first season as musical director of the Philharmonic. His second season ran 12 weeks from November, 1957, through January, 1958.

The concerts attracted audiences of unprecedented size and enthusiasm. He won the hearts of music devotees and the love and eager co-operation of his musicians.

After his last concert here on the night of Jan. 31, 1958, Dr. Van Beinum was given a thunderous, 7-minute standing ovation by a turn-away crowd of 6,700 in Shrine Auditorium.

Wanted to Return

At that time he expressed pride in the orchestra, sadness over his enforced vacation and a determination to return.

"I hope Southern Californians will understand what a precious instrument they have and that everyone here takes care of it," he said. "This is a great orchestra . . . Keep it that way until I come back."

Dr. Van Beinum was born in Arnhem, Holland, to a musical family which could trace it ancestry to 1234. His father was a double-bass player, his grandfather a bandleader and his great-grandfather a conductor.

Trained as Pianist

He was trained as a pianist but at 17 was playing the viola in the Arnhem Orchestra. He conducted his musical education at the Amsterdam Conservatory and at 26 became conductor of the Orchestral Society at Haarlem, where he remained six years.

In 1931 he was called back to Amsterdam as assistant to Willem Mengelberg, who had brought world renown to the Concertgebouw. In 1938 he became first conductor and, shortly after World War II, succeeded in Mengelberg's mantle.

In addition to his responsibilities with the Concertgebouw, Dr. Van Beinum was associated with the London Philharmonic Orchestra for many years as principal conductor.

Many Honors

Four European countries conferred special honors and decorations in recognition of his musicianship and contributions to symphonic interpretation.

The honors include Officer of the Netherlands Order of Orange-Nassau and Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion. Officer of the French Academy and Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor, the Order of the Star of the North in Sweden and Order of Danneborg in Denmark.

The University of Amsterdam conferred upon him the degrees of doctor of literature and philosophy.