Happy 80th Birthday Claudio!
Claudio Abbado, “the most widely respected living conductor” [The New York Times], is 80 years old today. I can’t believe time has flown so fast! While his impeccable posture on the podium may have given way to a slight stoop of old age in recent years, Abbado still leads with the same authority, creating the same magic. He has, without question, been my favourite conductor – and by extension one of my favourite musicians – ever since I discovered his recordings as a mid-teen. I’d like to make a wish today that he will live forever, and keep inspiring us with unforgettable performances :)
A great conductor is a conduit – a vessel through which the music, in all its essence, passes….all the while infused with his/her unique human personality. Here is a clip of Abbado back in 2005, conducting his own crème de la crème Lucerne Festival Orchestra in Mahler’s most complex of symphonies: no.7, a work that he truly made his own unlike no other. Using a face and body that reflect both strength and frailty where necessary; a rhythmically precise right hand in perfect harmony with an immaculately phrasing left; I marvel at how he is able to maintain a grip on multiple musical lines, driving an orchestra into a frenzy that teeters dangerously on the edge without ever spiralling into vulgarity. As is always the case with conductors of greatness, one may observe their alchemy but for it be granted no explanation whatsoever!