Italian conductor Claudio Abbado dies at the age of 80
Claudio Abbado, Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI (26 June 1933 – 20 January 2014) was an Italian conductor. He served as music director of the La Scala opera house in Milan, principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, principal guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, music director of the Vienna State Opera, and principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra. He was made a Senator for life in the Senate of Italy in 2013.
Abbado died in Bologna after a long illness, said Raffaella Grimaudo, spokeswoman for the Bologna mayor’s office. Abbado, who was appointed senator for life in Italy last year, had cancelled several recent performances and appearances due to ill health.
Mark Wilkinson, president of record label Deutsche Grammophon, said: “The world has lost one of the most inspiring musicians of our era, a man who put himself entirely at the service of the music he conducted and, in doing so, made listeners feel that they were hearing it properly for the very first time”. Mark Wilkinson, president of record label Deutsche Grammophon, said: “The world has lost one of the most inspiring musicians of our era, a man who put himself entirely at the service of the music he conducted and, in doing so, made listeners feel that they were hearing it properly for the very first time”. Abbado made his first recording for Deutsche Grammophon in 1967, and his last in 2013.
Career and The Berlin Philharmonic
Abbado was born into a musical family in Milan in 1933 and trained at the Milan Conservatoire before studying under Hans Swarowsky in Vienna. His career began at La Scala in 1960 and he went on to become musical director of the famous opera house until 1986, before his work with Vienna’s state opera.
In 1989, the Berlin Philharmonic elected Abbado as its chief conductor to succeed Herbert von Karajan. In 1998, he announced that he would be leaving the Berlin Philharmonic after the expiration of his contract in 2002. Aside from the major institutions he directed, Abbado was often happiest with orchestras of his own creation – the European Union Youth Orchestra, Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, and the Orchestra Mozart.
Abbado was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2000 and the treatment led to the removal of a portion of his digestive system. In 2004 he returned to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic and performed Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 in a series of recorded live concerts. The resulting CD won Best Orchestral Recording and Record of the Year in Gramophone Magazine’s 2006 awards. The Orchestra Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic established the Claudio Abbado Composition Prize in 2006 in his honour.
In 1997, Abbado won a Grammy Award in the best instrumental soloist performance (with orchestra) category. In 2012, he was voted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame and awarded the conductor prize at the Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) Music Awards. The latter prize was given for his concerts with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall in 2011.
Abbado was passionate about young musicians and founded youth orchestras across Europe. La Scala said illness forced Abbado to cancel two concerts in 2010 that were to have marked his return to the Milan opera house for the first time in 25 years, and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his conducting debut.
Abbado’s son from his first marriage, to singer Giovanna Cavazzoni, is the opera director Daniele Abbado and they had a daughter Alessandra; Sebastiano is his son with his second wife, Gabriella Cantalupi. He also had a relationship with the violinist Viktoria Mullova, and was the father of her oldest child, Misha.