Claudio Abbado

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Claudio Abbado (2012)
Claudio Abbado (1982)

Claudio Abbado [ ˈklaudjo abˈbaːdo ] (born June 26, 1933 in Milan , † January 20, 2014 in Bologna ) was an Italian conductor . He was a permanent guest conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic (from 1971) and chief conductor of La Scala in Milan (from 1971), the London Symphony Orchestra (1979–1986), the Vienna State Opera (1986–1991) and the Berlin Philharmonic (1989–2002).

education and study

Claudio Abbado was the son of the violinist and music teacher Michelangelo Abbado , his mother, Maria Carmela Savagnone, was a piano teacher and children's book author . He first studied piano with his father . At the age of 16 he began studying piano, composition, harmony, counterpoint and later orchestral conducting at the Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi in Milan. He also took a literature course with Salvatore Quasimodo, who later won the Nobel Prize . As a young organist he studied Johann Sebastian Bach's works intensively; at a house concert in 1952 he played Toscanini Bach's D minor concerto. In 1953 he completed his studies in Milan and made music with various chamber music ensembles - the basis for his later music making: “It is like a conversation in which you not only listen carefully, but also respond to the other and try, including the unspoken, feelings and thoughts capture."

Abbado met Zubin Mehta and the eleven-year-old Daniel Barenboim during a conducting course at the Chigiana in Siena . Mehta placed him in Vienna for further studies with Hans Swarowsky . Abbado then proved himself in a conducting competition in Tanglewood in 1958 and received an award there, but initially did not plan a career as a conductor, but rather went back to Italy and accepted a teaching position for chamber music in Parma .

Career as a conductor

Abbado conducted his first opera performance in Trieste with The Love for the Three Oranges by Prokofiev . From 1961 he conducted regularly at La Scala in Milan . In 1963 he received first prize in the Mitropoulos competition in New York . In addition to international recognition, the New York Prize was associated with a five-month assistantship with Leonard Bernstein , who was then chief conductor of the New York Philharmonic . During his assistantship with Bernstein in 1963, he received his first invitations to the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic , with whom he made his debut at the Salzburg Festival in 1965 . Gustav Mahler's Second Symphony was on the program . In addition, the first recordings were made with Abbado.

The La Scala

In 1966 there was a first collaboration with the Berlin Philharmonic . In 1968 Abbado opened the opera season at La Scala in Milan. He made his debut at Covent Garden Opera in London with his first Verdi opera ( Don Carlos ). He later surprised audiences in London with Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex and Alban Berg's Wozzeck .

During this time, Abbado received important impulses for modern music from Maurizio Pollini and Luigi Nono . In 1969 he got a permanent position as a conductor at La Scala in Milan and in 1971 also became its music director . From 1979 to 1987 he was chief conductor (music director) of the London Symphony Orchestra . From 1980 to 1986 he was chief conductor of La Scala in Milan. From 1982 to 1985 he was principal guest conductor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra .

Abbado made his debut at the Vienna State Opera in 1984 , became music director in 1986 and general music director of the City of Vienna in 1987 , a position he held until 1991. In 1988 Abbado founded the Wien Modern Festival , which is dedicated to performances of international contemporary music. At the Vienna State Opera he directed a. a. Premieres of I'Italiana in Algeri , Il viaggio a Reims , Khovanshchina , Fierrabras , Elektra , Wozzeck , Simon Boccanegra , Un ballo in maschera and Don Carlo .

Claudio Abbado as “guest conductor” on the occasion of the “Summer Concert 2008” of the Berlin Philharmonic

In 1988 and 1991 Abbado conducted the New Year's Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic (both times followed in the following years, i.e. in 1989 and 1992 , Carlos Kleiber as the conductor of the concerts). In October 1989 Abbado was elected by the Berlin Philharmonic as artistic director of the orchestra to succeed Herbert von Karajan . In 1994 Abbado also became director of the Salzburg Easter Festival . The time in Berlin was not free from tension. Abbado's open understanding of music-making, which contrasted with Karajan's rather authoritarian demeanor, provoked opposition from the orchestra. In 2000, Claudio Abbado fell ill with stomach cancer, from which he was now considered cured. As announced in 1998, he ended his work as Artistic Director of the Berliner Philharmoniker in 2002 - with a broad program that is typical of him: with Brahms' Schicksalslied , Mahler's Rückert-Lieder and Shostakovich's music to King Lear . Even after his contract expired, he remained very popular in Berlin. Abbado conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker in May 2008 in the Berlin Waldbühne . Due to fire damage in the Berlin Philharmonic, the concert, which attracted more than 20,000 people, was held "open air".

Claudio Abbado had previously returned to Italy in 2002, first to Ferrara and then to Bologna, where he set up the Mozart Orchestra with young musicians and where he lived until his death. With this orchestra from Bologna he later began work on building up the newly founded Lucerne Festival Orchestra - together with musicians from the world's great orchestras that Abbado knew from before and who gave concerts as teachers with the young musicians of the Mozart Orchestra Bologna met in Lucerne in spring and summer.

This type of music-making by young musicians together with experienced soloists who are involved as team members in the orchestra was typical for Claudio Abbado. Even as the founder of the European Community Youth Orchestra (1978) and later the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra (1986), he dedicated himself to promoting young musicians. This resulted in the establishment of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe (1981) and the establishment of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (1997), which in turn formed the basis for the establishment of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra (2003) and the Orchestra Mozart in Bologna in 2003/2004 .

Claudio Abbado died on January 20, 2014 at the age of eighty after suffering from cancer for a long time in Bologna . He was buried in Sils Maria in the Engadine . In March 2016 it was announced that his estate would go to the Berlin State Library . The free provision was agreed in a contract. The estate includes the notes with notes, business correspondence and Abbado's library.

Awards and honors

In 1958 Claudio Abbado won the Kussewitzky Prize for conductors, named after Sergei Alexandrowitsch Kussewizki , in Tanglewood , and in 1963 the first prize at the Dimitri Mitropoulos International Music Competition in New York, which was associated with a five-month assistantship with Leonard Bernstein. In 1973 he was awarded the Mozart Medal by the Mozart Community in Vienna .

In 1984 Claudi Abbado received the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic . In 1985 he, who felt particularly attached to the music of Gustav Mahler throughout his life, was awarded the golden Mahler Medal of the International Gustav Mahler Society , Vienna. In 1994 Abbado received the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize , the Ring of Honor of the City of Vienna and the Great Golden Decoration of Honor for Services to the Republic of Austria , and in 2001 the Würth Prize of the Jeunesses Musicales Germany . In 2002 he was awarded the Grand Cross of Merit with the Star of the Federal Cross of Merit by the then Federal President Johannes Rau . Since 2008 he has been the holder of the Great Order of Merit of the Province of South Tyrol .

In 1980/81 and 2000/01 Abbado received the Italian Critics 'Prize Premio Abbiati , the German Critics ' Prize in 2002 , the Praemium Imperiale in 2003 , the Kythera Prize in 2004 and the Wolf Prize in 2008 .

Abbado has been an honorary citizen of the city of Bolzano since 2002 and of the city of Lucerne since 2005 .

In February 1997 Abbado was made an honorary senator of the Hanns Eisler University of Music . He was honorary doctor of the University of Cambridge , the University of Aberdeen , the University of Ferrara and the Università degli Studi della Basilicata.

In 2013, his book My World of Music was named Science Book of the Year .

On August 30, 2013, Claudio Abbado was appointed Senator for life by President Giorgio Napolitano .

In 2014 Abbado was posthumously awarded the ECHO Klassik in the category Concert Recording of the Year (piano) with the Orchestra Mozart Bologna and Martha Argerich at the piano for Mozart's Piano Concerts 20 & 25.

Private life

Claudio Abbado was the brother of the composer Marcello Abbado and thus the uncle of the conductor Roberto Abbado . From 1956 to 1968 he was married to Giovanna Cavazzoni; from this connection there are two children. The daughter Alessandra Abbado works in theater management, the son Daniele Abbado as an opera director. Abbado also had a son with the violinist Viktoria Mullova , the double bass player Misha Mullov-Abbado .


Abbado has released CDs with works by almost every well-known composer. He also conducted the works of numerous contemporary composers such as Luigi Nono , Pierre Boulez , Karlheinz Stockhausen , György Ligeti , György Kurtág , Wolfgang Rihm and Beat Furrer . In 1965 he performed the opera Atomtod by Giacomo Manzoni at La Scala . Nevertheless, there are composers who are notably represented: Gustav Mahler , Claude Debussy , Franz Schubert and also Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart . A return to his “favorites” was particularly noticeable in his final years. In 2009 he conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker with a program consisting of Schubert, Mahler and Debussy; in May 2010 the program consisted of Schubert, Schönberg and Brahms in the same place. In 2013 an edition (41 CDs) was published with symphonies by Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Haydn, Mahler, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Mozart and Schubert.

Exceptional recordings and productions were created in collaboration with well-known soloists and orchestras:

The Digital Concert Hall of the Berliner Philharmoniker contains many acousto-optical live recordings of the concerts he has given with this orchestra, including the “European Concert” from May 2000 with Beethoven's 9th Symphony and the cycle with Beethoven's “remaining” eight symphonies, recorded in February 2001 in Rome.

Abbado's music-making was characterized by an accuracy in articulation and particular freshness, later an influence of historical performance practice could not be denied. Wilhelm Furtwängler was his role model , since with him "every note, every phrasing found a logical meaning for the context of the whole". Abbado mostly conducted without a score.


  • Cordula Groth: The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra with Claudio Abbado . With contributions by Helge Grünewald, Hans-Jörg von Jena, Ulrich Meyer-Schoellkopf. Photographed by C. Groth. Nicolai, Berlin 1994, ISBN 3-87584-481-5 .
  • Frithjof Hager: Claudio Abbado: Hear the others in silence . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2000, ISBN 3-518-39662-5 .
  • Christian Försch : Abbado - The Magic of Harmony , Henschel Verlag Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-89487-399-X
  • Music about Berlin. Claudio Abbado in conversation with Lidia Bramani , from the Ital. translated by Agnes Dünneisen and Beatrix Birken with the assistance of Doris Adloff. 2nd Edition. Dielmann, Frankfurt am Main 2002, ISBN 3-929232-82-0 .
  • Ulrich Eckhardt (Ed.): Claudio Abbado. Conductor . Nicolai, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-89479-090-3 .
  • Annemarie Kleinert : Berliner Philharmoniker from Karajan to Rattle . Jaron Verlag, Berlin 2005, pp. 1–189, ISBN 3-89773-131-2 (readable online: [2] ) or PDFs ; As of August 15, 2008.
  • Wolfgang Schreiber: Great conductors . Piper, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-492-04507-3 .
  • Wolfgang Schreiber: Claudio Abbado. The quiet revolutionary. Beck, Munich 2019, ISBN 978-3-406-71311-8 .
  • Claudio Abbado , in: Internationales Biographisches Archiv 13/2013 of March 26, 2013, in the Munzinger archive ( beginning of the article freely available)

Films (selection)

Web links

Commons : Claudio Abbado  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Claudio Abbado . In: Encyclopædia Britannica .
  2. ^ Obituary on the website of the Vienna State Opera, accessed on April 4, 2014.
  3. ^ Claudio Abbado's appearances at the Vienna State Opera
  4. Julia Spinola: The great gift of sound , in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung April 28, 2011, page 29.
  5. ^ Sü Farewell to a musician of the century .
  6. Claudio Abbado finds his final resting place in the Engadine .
  7. Frederik Hanssen: Claudio Abbado's estate comes to Berlin . 4th March 2016.
  8. ^ Inscription Deutschordenshof, passage: Claudio Abbado 1973 (accessed June 7, 2014).
  9. ^ Website of the Italian President , accessed January 20, 2014.
  10. List of all decorations awarded by the Federal President for services to the Republic of Austria from 1952 (PDF; 6.9 MB).
  11. Federal Cross of Merit for Abbado ( Memento from December 24, 2013 in the Internet Archive ),, May 3, 2002, accessed online on June 17, 2012.
  12. Archive link ( Memento from January 23, 2014 in the Internet Archive ).
  14. Claudio Abbado. University of Music Hanns Eisler Berlin, archived from the original on February 3, 2014 ; Retrieved January 20, 2014 .
  15. Best science books in Austria named ( Memento from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) at; Retrieved February 3, 2013.
  16. ^ Napolitano nomina quattro senatori a vita. La Repubblica , August 30, 2013, accessed August 30, 2013 .
  17. Klassik Prize Winner 2014 ( Memento from January 21, 2015 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on October 26, 2014
  18. Gerhard R. Koch: The sharp panorama of a lighthouse keeper., January 20, 2014, accessed January 20, 2014.
  19. Peter Hagmann: Music as an act of communication. (Obituary), January 20, 2014, accessed on January 20, 2014.
  21. . The recording was published by Harmonia Mundi in February 2012 : [1] .
  22. Allan Kozinn : Claudio Abbado, Influential Italian Conductor, Dies at, January 21, 2014, accessed January 20, 2014.
  23. ^ Claudio Abbado: Hearing the Silence (Sketches for a Portrait by Paul Smaczny). In: YouTube . EuroArtsChannel, March 23, 2015, accessed January 21, 2016 .