In the media


 |  27 June 2018

From Teatro alla Scala:

960274The 2018 production of Fierrabras is the occasion for Fondazione Abbado and Teatro alla Scala to remember Claudio Abbado, who would have celebrated his 85th birthday on June 26th.

On that date at 6pm the two institutions will be organizing in the Foyer A. Toscanini the conference “Claudio Abbado and the rediscovery of Fierrabras”, in partnership with FEDORA Platform. The conference will recall moments and features of the modern rebirth of the opera starting from Ruth Berghaus’ staging with the participation of, among the others, Daniele Abbado, Alexander Pereira and artistic contributions by Daniel Harding and tenor Josef Protschka, interpreting Fierrabras in 1988.

Free entrance while seats last. It will be also possible to follow the event in live streaming on our Facebook and YouTube pages.


 |  11 January 2016

The CAI is about to publish the first database of all the performances of Claudio Abbado. It will be presented to the public on 19th January 2016 at 8.30 p.m. at the Civica Scuola di Musica di Milano – Claudio Abbado  and will be available online in the following weeks.


 |  9 October 2015

The Berlin Philharmonic honour their former principal conductor Claudio Abbado with a bust. This, made by the sculptor Bertrand Freiesleben, will be unveiled on Sunday, 11th October 2015 in the Philharmonie and joins the busts of the other former principal conductors which stand there already.


 |  20 September 2015

At the annual awards of “Gramophone” the recording of Bruckner’s symphony no. 9 by the Lucerne Festival Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado not only received the prize in the category “Orchestral” but was also nominated Record of the Year. The prestigious prize was presented to Sebastian Abbado on 17.9.2015 in London.

2013/08: The Guardian (Tom Service) August 28th

 |  30 June 2015

A day of free concerts celebrated Lucerne’s 75th birthday, while Abbado’s spiritual take on Schubert and Bruckner was compelling and deeply affecting

Strange things happened at the Lucerne Festival over the weekend: this bastion of all that’s most privately-sponsored and frankly expensive in orchestral culture (tickets for the big-name concerts in Lucerne can cost about 50 times as much as a Promming place…) opened its doors on Sunday for its 75th birthday celebrations, a day in which every note played – from Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony to Beethoven’s Fifth, from German percussion star Martin Grubinger’s Percussive Planet to live remixes by Found Sound Nation – was free for everyone in the city.

Everything was packed, all day. It helps that the Festival is the location of two of the most visionary projects in classical music in recent years: Claudio Abbado’s Lucerne Festival Orchestra, and the Festival’s International Academyfor young musicians, founded by Pierre Boulez with the aim of transplanting the music of the 20th and 21st centuries into the bloodstream of the next generation of performers. Both ensembles were at the heart of the day’s concerts: David Robertson conducted the Academy’s orchestra in an infectiously cheery performance of Steve Reich’sThe Desert Music, followed an hour later by the Turangalîla Symphony, played with overwhelming technical conviction but with less than the emotional extremity the piece demands. In fluent German, Robertson interrupted the performance halfway through. Sensing that some Lucerners might be new to Messiaen’s orgiastic sound world, he urged them to stay because the final movement of Turangalîla “does things that are unique in music history”. He was right, too, and the vast majority of Messiaen newbies stayed to the rapturous conclusion. There was no stinting on the new music elsewhere on the programme: Stockhausen’s Tierkreis in an ambitious show for kids, string quartets by Cage and Georg Friedrich Haas from the American Jack Quartet.

There was a rumour that Abbado might conduct the day’s concluding concert from the Lucerne Festival Orchestra of Mozart – a voluptuously virtuosic Flute and Harp Concerto with soloists Jacques Zoon and Letizia Belmondo – but in the end, Rossini’s Italian Girl in Algiers overture was conducted by his assistant, Gustavo Gimeno. Even though the orchestra’s guiding conductorial spirit failed to materialise, that didn’t take away from a day that showcased the best and most adventurous achievements of Lucerne’s recent history, completely for free: something that UK festivals could surely learn from – if they could afford it…

There could have been another reason for Abbado’s absence. The night before, he conducted his orchestra in a programme of two of the greatest unfinished symphonies, the two movements of Schubert’s 8th and the three ofBruckner’s 9th. I’ve been lucky enough to hear Abbado’s relationship with these musicians develop over the last few years (above all in the finest and most transformative Mahler symphony cycle that I’ve ever experienced), but even the depths and heights the orchestra have traversed in their music-making over the last decade didn’t quite prepare me for this Schubert and Bruckner.

Abbado has always been the most extreme conductor working today in terms of the freedom with which he trusts his musicians and the economy of his gestures. But he took all that to new levels in this concert. He eliminated absolutely everything from his body language that wasn’t directly to do with the expression and progress of the spiritual experience of these pieces. There was hardly a downbeat worthy of the name in the entire concert, and there were no grand gestures of rhythm or pulse. Instead, there was only a distilled, gossamer communication of the music’s line and internal motion to his musicians. This was genuinely spiritual music-making: in the ethereal beauty of the sounds this orchestra created, in the extraordinarily broad but flexible speeds Abbado chose in both pieces, and even more fundamentally, in the sense that Abbado was drawing all of us into an intense interior journey that he somehow managed to convert into sonic, symphonic energy.

It was sometimes difficult, even painful, to witness this progress of unadulterated musical spirit. Every note of both symphonies was staged somewhere beyond: removed from the conventions of how they are usually performed, set in a different place from the public realm they most often inhabit. There was no comforting worldliness in Abbado’s vision of these pieces: the Schubert was unmoored by his slow tempi and by the gaspingly quiet dynamics this gigantic orchestra produced, which even made the usually gloriously tuneful slow second movement glow with a disturbing, dark light.

The Bruckner was still more disembodied. That wasn’t just a question of slowness, it was more that the whole piece levitated on the hyperreal musical beauty and subtlety that Abbado asked from his players. The performance hovered between the world of reality – the concert hall, the audience, the lights, the physicality of the performers – and some other place, some other state of being, that we were invited to enter into. And to go with the music was to discover a terrifying darkness as well as radiant light, above all in the apocalyptic dissonance that the third movement climaxes with. And then? Only the question mark that comes after all performances of this symphony that end with the adagio. Abbado and his orchestra’s performance was complete in its intensity, but devastating in its essential incompleteness: having glimpsed this place between worlds, we and the musicians had to wrench ourselves back to reality after the silence at the end of the concert collapsed into applause. Abbado seemed existentially exhausted at the end of the performance. How could he not have been? And yet, in his 80th birthday year, to confront and to realise so compellingly these visions of the beyond takes a special kind of musical and moral courage.

2011/07: FAZ : Interview with Claudio Abbado

 |  30 June 2015

What do you hear in the snow, Signore Abbado?



We talk to the conductor Claudio Abbado in his hotel suite in Berlin.  In front of us are scores and musical manuscripts. Abbado radiates great calm and an exceedingly kind, gentle charm. He talks with a melodious, very quiet voice.


What are these manuscripts lying in front of you and which you are studying?

They are notes by Alban Berg concerning his Lulu-Suite which I have received recently. There are entries in the score which are very interesting.


You have conducted this score so often since 1964. Do these notes change anything in your interpretation?

Yes, of course! You keep on finding something new. Look at this wind passage for example: “leierkastenmäßig” (like a hurdy-gurdy) is written there. This indicates to me that this theme must be played in a “Viennese” way.


You study scores very thoroughly

Yes, much can be learnt in this way. Often too through the corrections that the composers have inserted themselves. Mahler infers half of his life in his scores, his jealousy, his great love. That is very informative. Poor Mahler suffered so much. His wife Alma was not exactly easy…


Lately her compositions have been discovered and it has been claimed that she was suppressed by Gustav Mahler

What do you think of Alma Mahler’s compositions?


They are not really significant

Exactly. In Edinburgh I once instigated a Mahler-Festival in which compositions of Alma were also played. I realized at the time that she was a good student –but not more. However she really thought she was the greatest. That was due more to her character than to her talent.


Has the Mahler year brought you any more insights?

Yes, but just as every other year does. Anniversaries are only an occasion.


Mahler’s music has always sparked off discussions whether it is “absolute” music or “programme music”.  Do you see any sense in this differentiation?

In my opinion everybody can decide for himself. For me it is simply wonderful, great music which I love. I need no label for that.


And what about Mahler’s programmatic entries? Do you make any use of them?

These do give you new ideas. But that is exactly the lovely thing about great composers: that you forever find new aspects in their works. Great music is inexhaustible. In music, like in life, there are no limits. That is why I always try to restudy a score as if it were for the first time. Anything else would be too easy – and too boring.


How does a great conductor avoid routine?

Firstly: you just must avoid it. And secondly: the term “great conductor” means nothing to me. It is the composer who is great. We are only the servants of the music and have the obligation to understand as much as possible.


You were friends with some important composers and worked closely with them. I am thinking here of Luigi Nono.

The cooperation with Luigi Nono was enormously important and instructive for me, also because we did many premières together. That gave me insight into how a composer thinks, what his thoughts about a composition are. And as a result I started thinking about the ideas of composers of more ancient works which I conduct too. Over and above that it is interesting to investigate what the conductors belonging to a composer’s inner circle of friends have to say. For example, the experience of Bruno Walter is of greatest value. Walter, who since 1894 was Mahler’s assistant in Hamburg, who followed him 1901 as conductor to Vienna and who conducted the first performances of “Das Lied von der Erde” and the 9th Symphony, wrote much about Mahler. Or think about Arnold Schönberg’s text concerning the Viennese school and also Mahler. Nuria Nono-Schönberg continuously makes discoveries in her inheritance. It is very instructive to read that Mahler thought it would take half a century to understand his 6th symphony. Indeed you really need much time to penetrate into the secrets of such a score.  Or think of the leap Schönberg made between Pelléas et Mélisande or the Gurrelieder and his last works. That is really tremendous. In his early works Schönberg already uses twelve tones – as did others before him – but he only developed the structure and the method of twelve-tone music much later.


They only serve there as basic material, not as a principle of form.

Once you have seen that you can discover these principles in all ancient music: in Bach of course, but also in Gesualdo. Gesualdo was the most modern of all. Look at the way he treats the rules of the use of dissonances. That is bold! Bach was completely thrilled. It would be highly interesting, by the way, to find out how they communicated. As far as I know Bach was never in Venosa or indeed in Basilicata. Have you ever been to Basilicata?

No, never

You must go there! I was there for the first time only fifteen years ago. But that was like a new world for me. Nobody ever talks about this region of Southern Italy, but it is very interesting. There was a big Greek influence there, later of course a Roman one too. Real architectural riches can be found there, marvellous amphitheatres for example.


In the finals of the German Conductor Prize I noticed once again how many different things must be taken into consideration whilst conducting: knowledge of the score, the beat, gestural and mimic communication. How does one learn all that?

The wish to make a career is surely the wrong precondition. The most important is a deep love of music. Karajan, who was like a father to me, gave me much good advice. He heard me with the former Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin and invited me to Salzburg. There I conducted, on my request, Mahler’s 2nd Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic. That is how it all began. Karajan always advised me not to do too much and to conduct only if I was completely sure of myself. He warned me against a mistake he had once made himself as a young man: to stand on the rostrum with an insecure feeling.


Unluckily there are many examples of young artists who cannot resist the temptation of a quick career

Yes indeed, one has to be very wary of the strategy of the record companies. When Deutsche Grammophon suggested a cycle of all the Mahler symphonies to me I accepted only on the condition that I was allowed to take my time. Meanwhile I have recorded them all three times.


Do you sometimes listen to your old recordings?

Yes. Sometimes it is not too bad, sometimes it is dreadful.


Your understanding of Mahler then has changed?

Of course. I penetrated deeper and deeper.


Are you interested in any contemporary composers?

I worked with Nono, Boulez, Berio and Stockhausen when I founded the festival “Wien Modern”. Then there was the young composer Wolfgang Rihm with whom I like to work. He is such an intelligent composer and cultured man. With Henze I did a few things too.


What do you do when you do not work?

I go into the mountains, to the Engadin in Switzerland. There is a lovely valley there, the Fextal, where for the past hundred years nothing has been allowed to change. There is no traffic, you have to reach it by barouche or on foot. Every summer I go on long walks there which are ideal for studying.


How do you study during a walk? You must have the music in your head?

Yes, I let the score pass through my head and repeat everything inwardly. This countryside is so marvellously quiet. Even in summer there is snow there. And I love the sound of snow.


The noise it makes when one treads on it?

No, you can hear it even if you are only standing on a balcony.


You can hear snow?

Of course it is only a minimal, not even a real noise: a breath, a trifle of a sound. You have the same thing in music: if in the score there is a pianissimo marked that ends in nothing. Up there you can feel this “nothing”.  With an orchestra it is very difficult to achieve it. The Berlin Philharmonic manage it sometimes.


Is it indiscreet to ask you about your present state of health? You definitely look very well.

I am very much better. Of course I need a lot of discipline, in particular concerning meals. But also in my work. I do not give so many concerts any more: Berlin, Lucerne, Orchestra Mozart – that is about all. And with them I make my recordings.


But now you also want to introduce the Venezuelan training programme “El Sistema” in Italy

In some places it is thriving already, for example in Bolzano where there are three thousand applicants. We have something resembling a network in various Italian towns. In Milan it is very well organized by Maria Maino, in Fiesole by the pianist Andrea Lucchesini. In Naples it is still difficult at the moment, I will have to go there myself next year.


A quite different question: does such an experienced conductor like you still suffer from stage fright?

Of course, always. But from the start, already during my years at La Scala, my maxim was always to concentrate on my work, i.e. to support the soloist and the singers on stage or the composer whose work I was performing. Because the pressure on them is far greater than on the conductor. It helps to divert the attention from your own situation.


Do you feel your talent as a duty, an obligation to pass on your understanding of music?

Yes, I have always done that. That is, for example, why I so admire José Antonio Abreu who invented the “El Sistema” programme. What he got off the ground in Venezuela: he put 400 00 young musicians on the path to music. And he is increasingly expanding his activities: to Brazil, Mexico – one of these days the whole of South America will be full of music thanks to his commitment.

Julia Spinola

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 9.7.2011