Memories of Hans Vonk
Towards the end of the 1970’s, I was asked to produce a number of recordings with the Residentie Orkest (Hague Philharmonic Orchestra).The orchestra wanted a new concert hall, and was trying to earn some extra money, among other things, through its own record label. Most of these recordings were to be conducted by Hans Vonk, with whom I had never previously worked, despite the fact that I had often seen him conduct. “A difficult guy, Hans Vonk, best of luck,” a colleague mumbled. And during the meeting just before the first recording took place, Hans himself added the following: “I don’t really like recordings; no way will I listen to the takes; and if things don’t work out, we will stop immediately.”
But within ten minutes, we were busy recording an absolutely electrifying performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. I will never forget hearing the programme “Discotabel” on the radio, in which this recording was played during the “blind-test”. A couple of jury-members were convinced they were listening to a top orchestra from Russia with a world-class conductor, although the orchestra also sounded a bit like the Vienna Philharmonic. Hans himself was also on the panel and had naturally recognized his own recording: wisely, he said nothing, but found it hard not to burst out laughing. After that, we made many more recordings together, including Schubert’s Symphony No. 9, Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 and Bruckner’s Symphonies Nos. 6 & 7. Perhaps other people did find him difficult at times, but we never really had a problem; and if some minor difference of opinion arose, he was almost always in the right.