Claudio Abbado has passed away this morning in Bologna at 81-years-old. Uttterly elegant and exuberant on the podium, he recalled his first moment hearing live opera as, "the discovery of new magic".
The Milanese maestro, a man of deep humanity and artistry, leaves a legacy that rivals heavyweights Furtwaengler, Karajan and Kleiber. We'll be forever charmed by his immense Beethoven, Berg and Mozart, his eternal Verdi Boccanegra and his spellbinding Mahler symphonies -- especially the Ninth, below, with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.
Sustainability and solidarity. Abbado, who beat stomach cancer in 2000, was a gentle-mannered maestro who supported numerous outreach programs but never used the podium as a soapbox. He fostered young musicians in Cuba and Venezuela, and had an intuition for tappingg young talent, like Daniel Harding and Gustavo Dudamel. He treated his musicians with deep respect and founded numerous youth orchestras to train young musicians, such as the Bologna-based Orchestra Mozart in 2004 and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra in 1997.
Before social responsibility was a marketing tool, he carved deeply into environmental advocacy. In 2010, in anticipation of a La Scala concert after a 16-year-absence (he was fired by the orchestra in 1986 and prior to 2010, his last performance at Scala was in 1993 with the Berliner Philharmoniker), he squared-off with Milan over a tree-planting proposal in lieu of a paycheck. With architect Renzo Piano, he sought to seed 90,000 trees across Milan, which was pitifully shot down by then-mayor, Letizia Moratti.
He led a music directorship at La Scala from 1968 to 1986 and founded the Filarmonica della Scala in 1982, then led the Wiener Staatsoper from 1986 to 1991. He also served high ranks at the London Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Wiener Philharmoniker.
Post-Karajan wth the Berliner Philharmoniker, Abbado's open framework and selflessness redefined the conception of modern maestro.
His death follows recent 2013 cancellations, which included an October Japan tour with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and November concerts with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the Orchestra Mozart. Last year he was granted Senator for Life by the President of the Italian Republic for his significant contributions to classical music.
In the twilight of the most elegant maestri -- one shade from Von Bulow and Kleiber and de Sabata -- may Abbado's best lessons endure for the young lions roaring around the hallowed concert halls.
We can only hope that Abbado finds peace in 'the silence that follows the music'.
Here's a a great two-hour documentary on Abbado, in Italian.