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Remembering Claudio Abbado (1933-2014)

Claudio Abbado, photo from the Rosenthal Archives of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Claudio Abbado, photo from the Rosenthal Archives of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

“I am not their boss; we work together”

—Claudio Abbado

A conductor loved by audiences and musicians alike, Claudio Abbado has died at the age of 80. Chicagoans knew him for his phenomenal musicianship, appearing frequently with the CSO in the 1980s. In a touching statement from Martha Gilmer, who worked with Mr. Abbado in the CSO’s artistic department, she recalled, “The last time I saw him, he asked me to tell the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra how much he loved and respected them and the time he had with them.”

 “I admire him…for the seriousness and profundity that characterized his life as a musician and as a Maestro.”

—Riccardo Muti

Born in 1933, he worked to change the culture of music, opening the doors to students and workers, bringing concerts to factories. He founded and worked with youth orchestras across Europe. In August of 2013 Italian president Giorgio Napolitano appointed Mr. Abbado to Italy’s upper house of parliament, the senate.

“People learn how to talk, but they don’t learn how to listen. Listening to one another is an important thing in life. And music tells us how to do that.”

—Claudio Abbado

A native of Milan, he went on to head his hometown’s most prestigious institution, La Scala, from 1968-1986. He also held posts with the London Symphony, the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, and the Vienna State Opera. Locally he was principal guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1982-1985.

In recent years, illness had prevented Claudio Abbado from keeping a full schedule as an international conductor. He died on Monday in Bologna at home with his family.

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