Bernard Heinze

The emergence in history of a Sydney Symphony Orchestra, a recognisable forerunner of the orchestra you see on the stage, owes much to many people. But if one is to be singled out, it is Bernard Heinze.

Some will remember Sir Bernard as the avuncular guide to music who conducted ABC Youth and Children's concerts, giving many their first experience of an orchestra in live performance. But a much younger Bernard Heinze was the man with the vision that gave Australia its six ABC orchestras. The story begins in Melbourne, where he used his energy and persuasive charm to position himself as the conductor who could realise Melbourne's aspirations for a 'proper' symphony orchestra, and by the early 1930s he had largely succeeded. But Heinze's vision was national in scope. He nudged his collaborators within the fledgling ABC to make it not just a broadcasting organisation, but a major concert presenter and founder of orchestras.

Nothing was going to stop Heinze: soon he was exerting national power and influence. Within the next 15 years not only Sydney, but all the Australian capitals, would have symphony orchestras. Other names worth recording as the founders of the orchestras include the ABC's second Chairman William James Cleary, a Sydney man with a love of classical music, and Sir Charles Moses, the General Manager who made orchestras a leading element in the ABC's contribution to Australian life. Moses said of Heinze:

'It was the inspiration of Sir Bernard's enthusiasm and foresight that persuaded me to recommend in early 1936 the setting up of permanent groups of musicians in each of the six Australian states to be the professional nuclei for the orchestras which, later that year, gave music lovers their first regular annual series of orchestral concerts.'

The professionalisation of Australian orchestras was based on Heinze's belief that 'no city worthy of the name – certainly no country – is today without a symphonic body of real artistic worth'. It was no coincidence that Heinze's preference for a six-orchestra policy, rather than one 'national' orchestra, multiplied his own conducting opportunities. Some who played under Heinze, and some of the audience too, give credence to the adage 'a prophet is not without honour, save in his own country'. But Heinze deserves to be honoured, not least by the Sydney Symphony.

David Garrett ©2007