Recently I was talking to a young French friend about classical music and the converstation automatically turned to Claudio Abbado. I heard myself being told: “You who are a fan of this senior conductor...” This word senior stuck in my head. Never would I have thought of using this word in connection with Claudio Abbado. Of course, mathematically, he is really one of the “grand old men” of today, but he remains such an innovative, dynamic conductor, so in touch with young players that I would never think of him as “senior”.
Some time ago, during long car journeys, whilst listening to Dvorak’s Symphony from the New World, the Pastoral or Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, I was saying to myself that these never sounded like mature interpretations, sculptured as if for eternity. They are readings which always seem to be developing afresh, taking on each time a different colour, always incredibly dynamic, eventful, young. For Abbado, to make music always means to take a new look at the work in question, read and reread the score, always progressing further.
Claudio Abbado has been at the head of the most prestigious institutions that the musical world has to offer. Nothing more can entice him on this path. He alone has still a lot to offer. The time has come for him to have the freedom of choice. Freedom to perform how and with whom he chooses. The vital necessity to make music, to be open to any bright ideas, the wish to push ever further and deeper that is Abbado as we knew him in the Sixties and as we know him today.
I vividly remember what a Berlin critic wrote some time before the end of his tenure there: “The Berlin Philharmonic is looking for a young principal conductor: they have found him. His name is Claudio Abbado.”
The letters we at the CAI have received from all over the world show that without publicity, without attracting any attention, Claudio Abbado is a conductor close to the heart of music lovers. They have formed with him, who is such a private person, an artistic and emotional bond which is very particular. In this sense Claudio Abbado is not a “senior” but a “Lord” of music as of culture.