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The Salzburg Festival Mourns Claudio Abbado

20 JAN 2014

published in: General

Claudio Abbado, Orchestra Mozart Bologna (Photo: Silvia Lelli)
“For weeks, we have been afraid of this. Claudio Abbado is dead. The music world has lost one of its very greatest. He never sought to triumph, but probably that is why his interpretations became such triumphs. We in Salzburg must also bid farewell to a musician who gave our audiences extraordinary experiences for decades. There are few conductors whose reviews used the words ‘magic moments’ so often. Few other conductors received such surging waves of applause even after difficult works. The Festival is grateful that we were able to have him here in Salzburg. He lives on in us through his work,” Festival President Helga Rabl-Stadler said in a first reaction.

101 performances, 27 of them in the opera genre, reflect the entire breadth – or better, depth – of his repertoire. He created musical events of unforgettable quality with a broad range of orchestras: with the Vienna and the Berlin Philharmonic, the Czech Philharmonic Prague, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra and with the orchestra he founded last, the Orchestra Mozart.

Herbert von Karajan was the first to invite him to Salzburg in 1965. After he conducted Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, the Großes Festspielhaus was swept away in a storm of applause. Even notably strict critics like Franz Endler raved in their reviews: “The most beautiful concert of the Festival so far will be unforgotten for a long time.”

Abbado gave his opera debut in 1968 with Il barbiere di Siviglia. Once again, this proved the versatility of this great interpreter. It was a triumph of serene musical theatre, which many had not expected of him.

All his subsequent opera productions became part of the Festival’s history of interpretation: Elektra in 1989, From the House of the Dead in 1992, Boris Godunov in 1994, Wozzeck in 1997. Some of these were revivals from the Salzburg Easter Festival, where he served as Artistic Director from 1994 to 2002.

Given this sad event, we are especially glad that Alexander Pereira managed to convince Claudio Abbado to return to Salzburg to conduct Mozart and Schubert Masses in 2012.