Conductor Claudio Abbado has Died at Age 80

One of the greatest conductors of our time has passed away at the age of 80.  Claudio Abbado endured a long illness and outlived the expectations of many, working for as long as he could.  He died Monday at his home in Bologna, Italy.

He was remarkably productive during his illustrious career, especially during his final years, giving sublime performances with his Lucerne Festival Orchestra and guest conducting other orchestras. During his long career, he held a number of top positions, including  at La Scala, with the London Symphony, Vienna State Opera and the Berlin Philharmonic.

Always notable, was his dedication to helping along the next generation of young musicians  by forming ensembles devoted to them: The European Community Youth Orchestra in 1978, the Gustav Mahler Youth orchestra in 1986, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra in 1997, and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in 2003, which brought together many fine musicians.

His obituary contains much more, but I would just like to add my own personal note of appreciation for this great artist.  Via his fine recordings for Deutsche Grammophon, Claudio Abbado introduced me to the music of Gustav Mahler in a way that opened my ears to the full range of wonders in those large sprawling Late-Romantic masterpieces.  It takes a conductor of considerable ability to pull together the sometimes disparate elements that make up Mahler’s musical vision.  And Abbado had what it takes, in spades.

I still treasure the 2 LP box set of the Resurrection Symphony he recorded with the Chicago Symphony in the late 1970′s.  Shortly thereafter, I heard the recording he made with the same orchestra in the early 80′s of Mahler’s Seventh, a tricky piece to pull off well.  Then I realized that with such refinement, clarity and control, here was an absolute master of the podium.  Abbado went on to perform and record much more Mahler, but those recordings still have a special resonance for me.

Thank you, Maestro Abbado for wonderful and sublime music making.