2014.01.28

A Tribute to Claudio Abbado *Originally written for the Sankei Shimbun (January 27, 2014)

A tribute piece for Maestro Abbado… how heartbreaking it is to write this.

Claudio Abbado served as Music Director or Principal Conductor of some world top

orchestras, such as La Scala in Milan, Vienna State Opera and Berlin Philharmonic.

Furthermore, he also founded the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester, which consists of

outstanding young musicians he recruited from all Europe. Later, as the members became

adults, they gathered themselves together with Abbado to give birth to a smaller ensemble

group Mahler Chamber Orchestra, as if retracing music history in reverse. When I think

about now, one of the most amazing things about him was this frontier spirit. However, I

didn’t understand it even a little in my young days.

Abbado was my benefactor. When I won the Guido Cantelli Conducting Competition hosted

by La Scala at 23 years old, and then I started to perform at La Scala and some other halls,

he gave me a lot of opportunities. This picture was taken during this period (1971) when I

was moaning in embarrassment, thinking in my mind, “Abbado notices everything, how

awful!” For example, after I conducted Ligeti’s “Atmosphères” in a concert, some orchestra

parts got out of sync at the climax. Abbado visited my dressing room and said, without

seeing a single page of the score, “The reason why that happened that way was that you

had to conduct with one time signature, but you did it one way, and the music went another

way”. More recently, he supported Daniel Harding a lot, too.

Abbado was a person without the slightest ambition. He tried to modernize the relations

between conductor and orchestra, and I even felt that he tried to take away their master-

servant relationship; a relationship which I think seems to be a necessary evil sometimes.

Self-confessed disciple of Hideo Saito and Sergiu Celibidache, I felt uneasy with Abbado’s

abstract musical language and his way to rehearse with only a few verbal exchanges.

At the time, I didn’t understand what he wanted to convey from Beethoven, Mozart or

Brahms music in particular. After his performance, I even said to him, face-to-face in a

bratty way something like, “Is there a reason why you don’t add your own ideas to your

performance when given such great opportunity to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic?” And

then I stayed away from him on my own accord…

Born in an elite musical family, he put into practice the research results of his expert father.

His brother led a conservatory as a director and his nephew is a conductor. Now I regret

having looked on at all his heritage with such a prejudiced eye, as he was the most honest

and sincere conductor I had ever seen.

After considerable weight loss as a result of cancer-battling surgery, he was still visiting

Switzerland, Italy and Venezuela to teach young generations of musicians. It was painful to

see him so devoted. Still though, I continued to keep him at a distance.

The word “Maestro”, meaning “master”, signifies the charismatic existence that people

dread and admire. Maestro Abbado was a person who not only had such formal greatness,

but also treasured the joy of doing music, the love between humans and Sardinia’s nature.

In other words, Abbado lived like the Italian opera master Verdi that he was committed to.

Wouldn’t that be the most ideal life?

(Sankei Shimbun, January 27, 2014)

【Message】

A tribute piece for Maestro Abbado… how heartbreaking it is to write this.

Claudio Abbado served as Music Director or Principal Conductor of some world top

orchestras, such as La Scala in Milan, Vienna State Opera and Berlin Philharmonic.

Furthermore, he also founded the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester, which consists of

outstanding young musicians he recruited from all Europe. Later, as the members became

adults, they gathered themselves together with Abbado to give birth to a smaller ensemble

group Mahler Chamber Orchestra, as if retracing music history in reverse. When I think

about now, one of the most amazing things about him was this frontier spirit. However, I

didn’t understand it even a little in my young days.

Abbado was my benefactor. When I won the Guido Cantelli Conducting Competition hosted

by La Scala at 23 years old, and then I started to perform at La Scala and some other halls,

he gave me a lot of opportunities. This picture was taken during this period (1971) when I

was moaning in embarrassment, thinking in my mind, “Abbado notices everything, how

awful!” For example, after I conducted Ligeti’s “Atmosphères” in a concert, some orchestra

parts got out of sync at the climax. Abbado visited my dressing room and said, without

seeing a single page of the score, “The reason why that happened that way was that you

had to conduct with one time signature, but you did it one way, and the music went another

way”. More recently, he supported Daniel Harding a lot, too.

Abbado was a person without the slightest ambition. He tried to modernize the relations

between conductor and orchestra, and I even felt that he tried to take away their master-

servant relationship; a relationship which I think seems to be a necessary evil sometimes.

Self-confessed disciple of Hideo Saito and Sergiu Celibidache, I felt uneasy with Abbado’s

abstract musical language and his way to rehearse with only a few verbal exchanges.

At the time, I didn’t understand what he wanted to convey from Beethoven, Mozart or

Brahms music in particular. After his performance, I even said to him, face-to-face in a

bratty way something like, “Is there a reason why you don’t add your own ideas to your

performance when given such great opportunity to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic?” And

then I stayed away from him on my own accord…

Born in an elite musical family, he put into practice the research results of his expert father.

His brother led a conservatory as a director and his nephew is a conductor. Now I regret

having looked on at all his heritage with such a prejudiced eye, as he was the most honest

and sincere conductor I had ever seen.

After considerable weight loss as a result of cancer-battling surgery, he was still visiting

Switzerland, Italy and Venezuela to teach young generations of musicians. It was painful to

see him so devoted. Still though, I continued to keep him at a distance.

The word “Maestro”, meaning “master”, signifies the charismatic existence that people

dread and admire. Maestro Abbado was a person who not only had such formal greatness,

but also treasured the joy of doing music, the love between humans and Sardinia’s nature.

In other words, Abbado lived like the Italian opera master Verdi that he was committed to.

Wouldn’t that be the most ideal life?

(Sankei Shimbun, January 27, 2014)


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ショスタコーヴィチ:交響曲第11番「1905年」
ショスタコーヴィチの魂が疾走する! 井上道義の才気が炸裂する! これぞショスタコーヴィチの真髄!

Schedule

1冊でわかるポケット教養シリーズ 指揮者の世界
第2章は井上道義の特別インタビュー「僕が指揮者になって、今も続けている理由」