Conductor Claudio Abbado, 'champion of music', dies aged 80

Mon Jan 20, 2014 11:36am EST
 
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By Isla Binnie

MILAN (Reuters) - Claudio Abbado, who decided to become a conductor after hearing a concert at La Scala at the age of eight and went on to lead the Milan opera company and top orchestras for more than half a century, has died aged 80, La Scala said on Monday.

Abbado, who was known as a musician's musician, shunned the publicity and pomp often associated with leading conductors and staunchly supported young musicians. He died in the northern city of Bologna in his native Italy after a long illness.

"We have lost one of the greatest musicians of the last 50 years and one of the very few to have a close connection with the spirit of music in all its various forms," La Scala's current musical director, Daniel Barenboim, said in a statement.

"He set an example for the world, showing that young and inexperienced musicians can make music at the highest level when they work with the right attitude and commitment. We owe him this, and much more."

In addition to serving as music director of La Scala for two decades, Abbado led the Vienna State Opera, the Berlin Philharmonic and made guest appearances throughout the world.

"The world of music and culture has lost an absolute champion," Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta said.

"At his concerts there were breathtaking occasions for the audience and players alike," Lennox Mackenzie, a violinist and orchestra chairman of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), where Abbado was principal conductor from 1979-1988, told Reuters. "I remember some players actually being in tears."

Milan mayor Giuliano Pisapia said he would ask Barenboim to organize a memorial concert for Abbado, who was named an Italian Senator for Life by President Giorgio Napolitano last August.   Continued...

 
Italian conductor Claudio Abbado conducts the Berliner Philharmonic Orchestra during rehearsal in Rome's Santa Cecilia Auditorium February 8, 2001.