Haitink, 77, was recently appointed principal conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; he also conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in a complete Beethoven symphony cycle this past fall at Lincoln Center. (The Haitink/London Symphony recordings of the Beethoven Symphonies, released over the past months on the LSO Live label, have drawn wide critical acclaim.)
Haitink served as principal guest conductor of the Boston Symphony from 1995 to 2004 and has also been music director of Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (1964-88), the London Philharmonic (1967-79), the Glyndebourne Festival (1978-88) and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (1988-2002).
Also among those honored by the Musical America International Directory of the Performing Arts on Wednesday was Barbara Cook, named Vocalist of the Year. Musical America editor Sedgwick Clark praised Cook as "the quintessential voice of Broadway's golden age."
Kennedy Center CEO Michael Kaiser was named Impresario of the Year, praised for broadening and unifying the complex's diverse constituents. According to Washington Post critic Tim Page, Kaiser has "transformed the programming, and Washington is a more diverse, fertile, and altogether more interesting place for the arts than it has ever been."
American composer William Bolcom, whom Los Angeles Times critic Mark Swed described in his tribute article as "an eclectic's eclectic, a composer with something for everyone" and "a storied master of many musics," was named Composer of the Year. Bolcom is working on his fourth opera and eighth symphony, both which will receive their premieres in 2008, when he turns 70.
French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard was named Instrumentalist of the Year, commended for his "ear-opening artistry." Aimard has won acclaim for his outstanding interpretations of contemporary music, and more recently, mainstream repertory as well. He is currently midway through a Perspectives series at Carnegie Hall.