Claudio Abbado

Italian conductor (Milan, 1933 - Bologna, 2014)

One of our time’s most emblematic conductors, Claudio Abbado imposed his talent with generosity and discretion. "The term grand conductor doesn't make sense to me. Who is great is the composer" he said in an interview. Claudio Abbado has left his mark on the last 50 years of musical life.

Born into a family of musicians in Milan, Claudio Abbado studied piano, composition and conducting at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory in Milan, his hometown, before studying orchestra conducting in Vienna (Hans Swarowsky). At age 35, he was appointed musical director of the Teatro alla Scala, a position he held for eighteen years. His arrival at the Scala marked a turning point: Claudo Abbado enriched and renewed the famous lyrical institution’s repertoire with the intention of democratizing it and opening it to a new audiences.

In the 1980s, Claudio Abbado was musical director of the London Symphony Orchestra and of the Vienna State Opera, before succeeding Herbert von Karajan as head of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, elected by the musicians themselves. He took advantage of the reputation of the major ensembles he led to promote initiatives meant for young musicians: thus he encouraged or supported many talents (Daniel Harding, Gustavo Dudamel, Renaud Capuçon, among many others). Claudio Abbado directed or worked alongside all our time’s great interpreters. He also forged very close ties with many of them: Martha Argerich, Maurizio Pollini, Zubin Mehta.

A great defender of contemporary music (Nono, Stockhausen, Rihm), Claudio Abbado was on the initiative of numerous festivals dedicated to contemporary creation ("Wien Modern" in Vienna). Throughout his career, he worked for the further development and integration of young orchestral musicians as founder of the European Union Youth Orchestra, which later became the European Chamber Orchestra (1981) or the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra (1986). He was the founder of the Gustav Mahler Chamber Orchestra (1997), which became Lucerne Festival Orchestra’s core and led to the excellence of Bologna Mozart Orchestra. His monumental discography, mostly recorded for Deutsche Grammophon, a label with which Abbado had collaborated since 1967, went through all phases of his artistic career, in the symphonic as well as the lyrical repertoire.

Claudio Abbado received the highest international awards: the Bundesverdienstkreuz, Germany's highest honour, the Légion d’honneur, the Mahler Medal, the Gramophone Lifetime Achievement Award and the conductor prize at the Royal Philharmonic Society.

Six landmark dates in the life of Claudio Abbado:

1958: The Boston Symphony Orchestra's Koussevitzky Prize.
1963: The Dimitri Mitropoulos Prize for conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra
1968 – 1986: Musical director, then intendant at the Teatro alla Scala
1979 – 1988: Musical Director of the London Symphony Orchestra
1986 – 1991: Musical director of the Vienna State Opera House
1990 – 2002: Head of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (successor of Herbert von Karajan)

Six key recordings by Claudio Abbado:

• Ravel: Piano Concerto; Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No 3 Martha Argerich
Berlin Philharmonic
Deutsche Grammophon

• Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande Wiener Staatsoperncho
Wiener Philharmoniker
Deutsche Grammophon

• Rossini: Il viaggio a Reims Ricciarelli - Valentini Terrani - Cuberl
Gasdia - Araiza - Gimenez - Nucci
Raimondi - Ramey - Prague
Prague Philharmonic Chorus
The Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Deutsche Grammophon

Mahler: 10 Symphonies Chicago Symphony Orchestra
The Vienna Philharmonic
The Berlin Philharmonic
Deutsche Grammophon

• Verdi: Macbeth Glasshouse - Cappuccilli - Domingo
Ghiaurov - Malagù
Coro e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala
Deutsche Grammophon

• Schumann: Symphony No. 2 Overtures: "Manfred","Genoveva".
Mozart Orchestra
Deutsche Grmamophon