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Claudio Abbado

26 June 1933 – 20 January 2014

It is with deep regret that Deutsche Grammophon announces the passing of one of the greatest conductors of this and the last century. The label is proud to have accompanied Claudio Abbado on his musical journey over the last 46 years, and to have had the privilege of preserving his work in recordings.

Max Hole, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Universal Music Group International said: “Like all music lovers around the world, I am deeply saddened by Maestro Abbado’s death. Claudio Abbado’s contribution to musical life is inestimable, from the ensembles he created to his positions at La Scala, the Berliner Philharmoniker and the Lucerne Festival. It has been a privilege for everyone at Universal Music to work with him over so many years, he was truly one of the greats.”

Frank Briegmann, President Central Europe Universal Music and Deutsche Grammophon, commented: “Claudio Abbado has changed the world of music – with his body of work as well as with his personality. He consistently placed emphasis on dialogue and cooperation which made his music so alive. Moreover, he has made an impact as a patron for young talents. Much to my regret, our plans for the future will now be uncompleted. Nevertheless, it is comforting that Claudio Abbado’s spirit will stay alive after his death – in his recordings as much as in what he taught other artists.”

Claudio Abbado will be remembered not only for his capacity to reveal the secrets of music with unfailing clarity but also for his tireless work and communicative gifts in encouraging musicians, founding orchestras and establishing festivals.

In 2012, when Gramophone named Abbado as one of the “50 People Who Changed Classical Music”, Douglas Boyd wrote, “What makes Claudio a great artist is his humanity, his extraordinary ability to change the sounds of the orchestra with just a gesture … His performances can be life-changing.”

Abbado, who made his first recording for Deutsche Grammophon in 1967, and his last in 2013, leaves behind an extraordinary recorded legacy that bears witness to his personal development as a musician, his special affinities for Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Rossini, Verdi, Mussorgsky, Mahler, Debussy and Ravel, his championing of contemporary works, and his achievements with institutions that he served as music director and which, in turn, shaped his career: the Teatro alla Scala in Milan (1968–86), the London Symphony Orchestra (1979–87), the Vienna Staatsoper (1986–91) and the Berliner Philharmoniker (1989–2002).

He devoted much time to nurturing young talent, and was founder and music director of the European Union Youth Orchestra, which developed into the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in 1981; with them he conducted recordings of Rossini’s Il viaggio a Reims and Schubert’s complete symphonies (Gramophone’s “Record of the Year” in 1986 and 1988, respectively). After leaving Berlin in 2002, he continued to work with the COE and Mahler Chamber Orchestra, before creating the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in 2003 and the Orchestra Mozart in Bologna in 2004.

Major releases continued to appear: to mark Abbado’s 80th birthday in June 2013, Deutsche Grammophon issued a 41-CD edition covering the core works of the symphonic repertoire. In the same year the company released his recordings with Orchestra Mozart of Schumann’s Second Symphony and Mozart Piano Concertos with Maria João Pires, while a new recording with Martha Argerich of Mozart’s D minor and C major Piano Concertos, K 466 and K 503 respectively, is due to appear in February 2014.

The approach that Abbado summed up in the words “the term ‘great conductor’ has no meaning for me – it is the composer who is great” was no empty rhetoric. After meticulous preparation, involving consultation of original sources, he conducted everything from memory. Freed from the physical presence of the score, it was perhaps his ability truly to listen that made his performances unique. In an interview given to The Guardian in 2009, Abbado made the comment, “For me, listening is the most important thing: to listen to each other, to listen to what people say, to listen to music.”

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