Obituary: Claudio Abbado (1933–2014)

The LSO is deeply saddened to hear of the death, on Monday 20 January 2014 at the age of 80, of its former Principal Conductor Claudio Abbado.

Abbado was the LSO's 12th Principal Conductor, succeeding André Previn in 1979, and holding the post until 1987. He also held the titles of Principal Guest Conductor (1975–79) and Music Director (1984–87).

Maestro Abbado first conducted the LSO in October 1966, and quickly established his credentials in recording, which was to continue throughout his tenure. Landmark recordings for Deutsche Grammophon include Mozart's Piano Concertos with Rudolf Serkin and the complete Mendelssohn symphonies.

He toured extensively with the Orchestra, including several Shell Tours around the UK, and a World Tour in 1983 that took in the USA, Australia and Japan.

It was at the start of Abbado's tenure in 1979 that the LSO was invited to be Resident Orchestra of the as-yet-to-be-completed Barbican Centre. Despite being initially beset by problems, having a permanent home in one of London's great concert halls provided the Orchestra with the stability they had lacked for their first 75 years, allowing it to build a loyal audience and have a dedicated space to rehearse and perform, and to realise artistic aspirations.

One such artistic aspiration that the LSO hoped Abbado would bring to the Orchestra was a themed festival of concerts and related events called ‘Mahler, Vienna and the Twentieth Century’ which would examine the notion of Vienna as the crucible of modernism in art and music. Staged in 1985, it undoubtedly put the LSO and Barbican at the centre of international attention towards the start of their partnership.The LSO Board expressed serious concern about the costs, but with typical aplomb Abbado dismissed their fears: "If you don't take risks to achieve high artistic ideals, then what's the point of the orchestra?" he asked, "with music there should be no compromise." His plans for the festival survived and thrived, and his attitude changed the way the LSO thought about artistic planning.

The best concerts that the LSO gave under Abbado’s direction were stupendous occasions for players and audience alike. "The work with Claudio was the most satisfying and important I have ever done" said Mike Davis, the LSO’s leader for most of the 'Claudio Years'.

LSO Chairman and Sub Leader Lennox Mackenzie said today: "It's a very sad day for the LSO. He was a very important part in the LSO's history, a truly charismatic figure. His concerts were breathtaking - I remember players actually in tears as they were playing. Those of us in the Orchestra in 1980s will remember him with great affection and admiration."

> Claudio Abbado with the LSO: in pictures

Main photo: 1986 portrait, taken by Clive Barda

Claudio Abbado and the LSO: in brief

LSO Principal Guest Conductor 1975–79
LSO Principal Conductor 1979–87
LSO Music Director 1984–87

1966: First conducted the LSO on 20 October at the Royal Festival Hall
1983: Webern Festival
1984: Beethoven Cycle
1985: Mahler Vienna & the Twentieth Century series
1988: Last concert with LSO on 27 November at the Barbican Hall

First performances with LSO:
1969: Nono Intolleranza (World Premiere)
1979: Ferneyhough La Terre est un home (First London Performance)
1985: Nono A Carlo Scarpa architetto (British premiere)