The Full Works Concert - Wednesday 26 June: Claudio Abbado at 80

The great conductor Claudio Abbado celebrates his 80th birthday today. Anne-Marie Minhall pays tribute to him with two hours of his finest recordings.

Calm, versatile and still at the peak of his powers, Claudio Abbado combines a strong musical personality with a relatively calm manner and a vast repertory. Today this preeminent conductor turns 80 and the Full Works Concert celebrates with some of his great performances.

Born in Milan, Abbado began studying conducting in 1955 at the Vienna Academy of Music. In 1958 he won the international Koussevitsky Competition for conductors, which resulted in a number of operatic engagements in Italy, and in 1963 he won the Dimitri Mitropoulos Prize for conductors, allowing him to work for five months with the New York Philharmonic.

Abbado rose steadily through the international musical ranks towards his tenure as music director at La Scala Opera in his native city, from 1972 to 1986.

During his time at La Scala, as well as conducting some exceptional Verdi performances and recordings, Abbado also programmed fiercely controversial new works by the Italian avant-garde.

In 1965, Abbado made his British debut at the Halle Orchestra, followed, in 1966, by his London Symphony Orchestra debut. From 1979 to 1988 he became the principal conductor of the LSO and from 1982 to 1986 he was principal guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

In 1989, the Berlin Philharmonic elected him as their chief conductor, to succeed Herbert von Karajan. In 1998, he announced that he would be leaving the Berlin Philharmonic after the expiry of his contract in 2002.

After recovering from stomach cancer, Abbado formed the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in 2003 and their concerts have been highly acclaimed. He also serves as music director of the Orchestra Mozart of Bologna, Italy.

Franz Schubert: Symphony No.5 in B flat major
Claudio Abbado conducts the Chamber Orchestra of Europe

Johann Sebastian Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No.3 in G major
Claudio Abbado conducts Orchestra Mozart

Robert Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor
Piano: Alfred Brendel
Claudio Abbado conducts the London Symphony Orchestra

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony No.29 in A major
Claudio Abbado conducts the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra