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R.I. P. Claudio Abbado , The Gentle Giant Of The Podium

   The great and  revered Italian conductor Cllaudio Abbado has just passed away at the age of 80 in his home in Bologna,Italy  .  It's difficult to believe that such a force of nature , a conductor so filled with energy and  enthusiasm , is no more .  But he had been struggling with the effects of  stomach cancer for some years , while  managing to continue conducting , and his appearance had become more gaunt with age . 

    Many great conductors have been feared by the musicians who played under them ; they were strict disciplinarians who were respected but  dreaded .  Toscanini, Szell, Reiner , for example . But Claudio Abbado was universally loved by the world's greatest orchestras which he conducted for decades ; the Berlin Philharmonic, the London symphony , the Vienna Philharmonic, the Chicago symphony , to name only those most closely associated with him , not to mention the orchestras of  such great opera companies of  the great La Scala  opera house in his native Milan and others .

   Abbado was the gentle giant of the podium ;  never bossy, overbearing  and imperious , he won the respect of  orchestral musicians everywhere with his  exceptional musiciaship and quiet authority .  He was equally admired  by the world's greatest opera singers , with whom he regularly worked ,  and the  most renowned  violinists , pianists and other solo instrumentalists .

    Claudio Abbado was chosen by the musicians of the mighty Berlin Philharmonic to succede the legendary Herbert von Karajan as their chief conductor  in 1989 shortly after the older maestro died that year , and also  been  principal conductor of the London symphony orchestra ,  the music director of  La Scala Milan and the Vienna State opera .  He also served as principal guest conductor of the Chicago symphony orchestra during the 1980s . 

     As a budding young conductor in the early 1960s he was an assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein ,and  guest conducted  such great American orchestras as the Boston symphony , Philadelphia and Cleveland  on occaision, although his  main base was Europe . 

     Later in life, he founded several  special more or less ad hoc orchestras such as the Lucerne Festival orchestra , a deluxe, hand-picked  festival orchestra chosen from the greatest orchestras of Europe , and the Mozart orchestra of Bologna , as well as  the All-European youth orchestra , drawn from the most talented young  aspiring musicians of  the continent .

    Abbado was at home in a wide rnge of orchestral and operatic repertoire , ranging from Mozart and Beethoven to the most important composers of the present day .  In opera , he was especially  renowned for his interpretations of  Verdi and Rossini Mozart,  but also conduted operas by Wagner, Alban Berg, Mussorgsky , Debussy and Richard Strauss . 

    He was a  staunch champion of such leading Italian  contemporary  composers as Luigi Nono and others , as well as the music of  other avant-garde European composers as  Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen . 

    Abbado  made numerous recordings , mostly for Deutsche Grammaphon , but also for  Sony Classical and Decca of  a wide variety of  works ,and many have become classics , such as his  La Scala recordings of operas by Verdi ,including  Don Carlos , Aida , Simon Boccanegra, Macbeth and Un Ballo in Maschera .  Classic Rossini opera recordings include  Il Barbiere Di Siviglia , La Cenerentola (Cinderella ), and  Il Viaaggio  Reims .

    There are also recordings of Bizet's Carmen, Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina, Wagner's Lohengrin ,  Debussy's Pelleas& Melisande ,  and Berg's  Wozzeck . 

    Abbado recorded all nine Beethoven symphonies twice, with the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics, and the complete symphonies of  Schubert, Mendelssohn, Brahms , Mahler, and Tchaikovsky .  There are also recordings of numerous works by Prokofiev, Ravel, Richard Strauss, Stravinsky,  Berlioz ,  Bruckner Debussy etc .    Numerous live performances of  operas and concerts by the maestro are available on DVD .

     Few conductors have been so universally loved and admired as Claudio Abbado , by both audiences musicians and  singers .   And few have been less egotistical  and  imperious .  He will be universally missed , but leaves a great and  priceless legacy of  great achievements .


Posted: Jan 20 2014, 10:18 PM by the horn | with no comments
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