Claudio Abbado dies, aged 80

20 January 2014, 16:56

The Italian conductor Claudio Abbado has died in Bologna after a long illness, aged 80. He was one of the most revered conductors in the world, thanks to a glittering career with a huge variety of different ensembles.

The news comes the week after it was announced that his Orchestra Mozart was to close.

Abbado studied music at the Milan Conservatoire during his early years. He was well-known for his interpretations of opera, and began his opera career in 1960, making his debut at La Scala in his hometown of Milan.

Since then, he went on to conduct legendary ensembles like the Vienna Philharmonic, Vienna State Opera, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Halle Orchestra. He was principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra from 1979 to 1988.

He was then made chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, succeeding Herbert von Karajan, where he remained until 2002. The turn of the century saw him suffer from a bout of stomach cancer, however, and his health had been a worry throughout his later life. 

After a recovery from stomach cancer, he formed the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in 2003. Ill health continued to plague Abbado, though, and he was forced to cancel a comeback concert at La Scala in 2010, which was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his first appearance there.

It was announced only last week that the Orchestra Mozart, of which Abbado had been chief conductor, was to close 'temporarily'. Abbado had cancelled several concerts in the previous season due to ill health.

Mark Wilkinson, president of Deutsche Grammophon records, spoke to Classic FM's Bill Overton about the great conductor's life:

Listen to the interview

Classic FM's David Mellor also paid tribute to Abbado:

David Mellor's tribute

Lennox Mackenzie, Chairman and sub-leader of the London Symphony Orchestra, pointed to Abbado's determination for perfect results in rehearsal and his dedication to youth music:

Lennox Mackenzie