R.I.P. Claudio Abbado

I’ve just heard the very sad news that the great Italian conductor Claudio Abbado has passed away at the age of 80. No words of mine can pay adequate tribute to his wonderful career. He leaves a rich legacy of recordings which can speak more eloquently than I could ever do and he will live on through them and through the memories of those who attended live performances he conducted. Here is a superb example, a recording of  a sublime performance one of the five Rückert-Lieder by Gustav Mahler (“Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen“) featuring the Lucerne Festival Orchestra under Abbado’s direction, and the gorgeous voice of mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená. Rest in peace, Maestro Claudio Abbado.

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10 Responses to “R.I.P. Claudio Abbado”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    I’m very glad you posted this Peter. He was a true maestro. In the early 1980s I heard him conduct Beethoven’s choral symphony in Vienna and was amazed how much better it sounded than at any previous concert performance I’d attended. My parents were bowled over too – this was a holiday at which I spent a decent amount of time with them for the first time since commencing fulltime research for my PhD. They knew a lot about classical music and were also deeply impressed; afterwards we each found that we had been struggling not to cry during the slow movement.

    I have Abbado’s recording of Beethoven’s 9 symphonies on CD recorded with the Vienna Phil and it is a treasured possession. I want no other boxed set of those symphonies. I don’t ‘get’ the very pared-down recording of them that he later did with the Berlin Phil. But I’m sure he knew what he was doing even if I didn’t. RIP.

    • telescoper Says:

      This particular Mahler song often reduces me to tears, not reallly because it’s sad but because it’s so utterly beautiful…

      • Bryn Jones Says:

        Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder are excellent, while Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen is sublime. The clip above is wonderful.

    • “He was a true maestro.” Interestingly, there was a saying in Italy that there are two types of conductors: the maestro and Abado. (This was because of his unassuming airs.)

      “I don’t ‘get’ the very pared-down recording of them that he later”

      Is this some sort of HIP*? I notice that Christopher Hogwood (known, at least to me, mainly for HIP baroque music) also has a pared-down version of Beethoven’s symphonies.

      *HIP = “historically informed performance”, i.e. a performance using instruments, tunings, playing conventions etc of the time the music was written.

      In other music news, apparently violinist Vanessa-Mae will be taking part in the Winter Olympics—as a skier.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        I don’t think the Abbado/Berlin Phil Beethoven symphonies is a period-instruments recording, but it is very deliberately with a small orchestra. I can’t remember the tunings and conventions but the difference sounded more than just orchestra size. I can’t consult the accompanying notes as I gave this boxed set away when I bought, 2nd hand, the Abbado/Vienna Phil CD boxed set, which Deutsche Grammophon had withdrawn from sale after the Berlin Phil set came out.

      • Here are some (mostly positive) reviews. Apparently not HIP per se, but a mixture between HIP and more traditional performances. Apparently with “new” scores as well.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        I remember the del Mar score being discussed in the “sleeve notes” now. Amazing that this 2000AD boxed set has been remastered, whatever that means for a recording that was surely digital in the first place.

        This is thin ice, but I find it hard not to believe that Beethoven would have preferred a larger orchestra…

      • “This is thin ice, but I find it hard not to believe that Beethoven would have preferred a larger orchestra…”

        So he could hear it? :-)

  2. Bryn Jones Says:

    The death of Claudio Abbado is very sad.

    I only heard him conduct once, and that was with Lucerne Festival Orchestra. It was about two years ago at the Festival Hall in London, and I sat in the choir seats immediately behind the stage. Although I could not see the whole orchestra, I was able to look straight into Claudio Abbado’s face as he conducted.

    They gave a very nice performance of Mozart’s Haffner Symphony. After the interval came Bruckner’s brilliant Fifth Symphony. It was wonderful, thrilling. I loved it. It was such a great experience.

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