Claudio Abbado leaves behind a unique Swiss legacy
With the death of Claudio Abbado in January this year, not only did one of the most revered conductors of our time take his leave, a musician who had the capacity to bring to life a slew of international projects and interpret a broad symphonic and operatic repertory conducted his last note. He was beloved worldwide. But over the last ten years of his life, one project remained particularly close to his heart – the prestigious world-renown Swiss music event, the Lucerne Festival. Born in Milan in 1933 of a family of musicians, Abbado made his international debut at the Salzburg Festival in 1965 with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and on invitation by the legendary Herbert von Karajan. For sixteen years he reigned as La Scala’s Music Director in Milan, during which time he vastly improved the operatic repertoire, particularly with regard to that of the twentieth-century.
Throughout his career, Abbado founded many orchestras, among which the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, and was appointed music director of one of the world’s most prestigious ensembles: the Berlin Philharmonic. The conductor led projects in which music was closely connected to others arts, such as literature, poetry, visual art and film, setting a new trajectory for the culture landscape in Europe.
“To me, listening is the most important thing: listening to each other, listening to what people say, listening to music,” said the conductor upon founding the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in 2003. When Abbado and Lucerne Festival Executive and Artistic Director Michael Haefliger jointly spearheaded the project, they created something elite and globally unparalleled. Every summer internationally renowned performers are hand picked from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra to form an orchestra in a class all its own. ‘Making music in friendship’ is as central to their identity as it is to their music. Abbado catapulted his orchestral family to supreme achievements by imparting a chamber music approach, which promotes dialogue, listening, and mutually experiencing the way that sound, interpretation, even music itself emerges. The Lucerne Festival Orchestra has performed robust programmes worldwide, travelling as far as Tokyo, New York, Vienna, Beijing, Hamburg, London and Paris, to name just a few.
Under the direction of Abbado, the orchestra had a significant and auspicious impact on the Lucerne Festival, attracting a broad audience, sponsors and supporters. In 2013, audience numbers for the three events – the Eastern Festival, Summer Festival and Piano Academy – sat at 137,000 CHF for 98 concerts over 49 days. The total budget that year was set at 26.2 million CHF, with sponsor support bringing in 8.6 million CHF, 33 percent of the total budget, while ticket sales notched 11.4 million CHF, an impressive 44 percent. Among the festival’s main sponsors are Credit Suisse, Nestlé AG, Roche, and Zürich Versicherungs-Gesellschaft AG.
The Lucerne Festival mourns the loss of a maestro, but lives on. “The challenge now is to preserve Abbado’s legacy,” explains Haef liger. “We hope to remain faithful to his path and credo in the future, and thus to create an everlasting remembrance of him and his great art.”
2014 Lucerne Festival Season Teasers
The 2014 Easter Festival will open with a gala concert by Bernard Haitink and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in a celebration of the symphonies and concertos of Robert Schumann.
The Summer Festival programme – designed by Abbado prior to his passing – is taken up by Andris Nelsons in his stead. Exploring the inner psyche of the secretive Romantic, this year the Lucerne Festival Orchestra launches a new Brahms cycle that features the celebrated pianist Maurizio Pollini and contralto Sara Mingardo.
Developed by Peter Sellars, a “ritualization” of St. Matthew Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach is on the programme with the Berlin Philharmonic and the world-renowned English conductor Sir Simon Rattle – together with the Berlin Radio Choir and soloists Magdalena Kožená, Mark Padmore, and Christian
In late November runs the Lucerne Festival at the Piano, a week-long celebration that focuses on Beethoven this year, with Leif-Ove Andsnes presenting ‘The Beethoven Journey’ in addition to all five piano concertos with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. The internationally recognized pianist Paul Lewis brings three piano sonatas, Martin Helmchen interprets the Diabelli Variations, and Pierre-Laurent Aimard indulges in a traversal of the first book of Bach’s Well- Tempered Clavier. But the week doesn’t stop there. For jazz lovers, Piano Off- Stage is an opportunity to enjoy improvisation at bars throughout Lucerne. This year, Rattle leads the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra, founded by Pierre Boulez in 2004, with an appearance by Barbara Hannigan – the summer’s star artist and soprano soloist. Matthias Pintscher and Switzerland’s very own Heinz Holliger complete the programme with a signature virtuosity that has set them apart worldwide.
For the full 2014 programme and ticket office:
Article by Luca Della Libera