I am rotated out until we start rehearsing Classics 1 the week after next. I’ll be doing a little traveling an also continuing to work on a CPO related project, collecting musician bios and also putting together a survey of ‘interesting’ questions for musicians to answer which marketing and development will be using for various promotional purposes. One of the questions we came up with is Who is your idol? I don’t actually idolize any bass players, but as long as I remember the great conductors of the world have always been people I’ve been deeply fascinated with. As a student Bernstein and Karajan were certainly at the top of my list, and my CD collection reflected that with those two certainly having lopsided representation. Now, as a professional I find that what I admire about certain conductors has changed and there is a certain individual that appeals to the idealist and the dreamer in me…
Claudio Abbado, who may not live to see the end of the year and who I never really much paid attention to until the last year is the closest person I have as a 28 year old to an idol. I have of course never worked with him, and likely never will. I actually only own a small handful of his CD’s. It was his DVD’s with Lucerne that first really got my attention. The man who succeeded Karajan is so much more that just a conductor though, and therein lies the fascination.
Abbado is a visionary, and a builder. He seemingly has never been satisfied with simply being the conductor of the world’s greatest orchestras, and instead he has used his great influence to create institutions like the La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra, the European Youth Orchestra, and the Vienna Modern festival. When the European Youth Orchestra wouldn’t allow him to bring in students from outside of the EU he resigned and founded the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester which later spawned the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Most recently he founded what might be the greatest orchestra in the world at the Lucerne Festival
He has also worked with the miraculous Venezuelan youth orchestra Orquestra Sinfonica Simon Bolivar which has to be seen to be believed. This kind of dedication to education and institution building is what is most admirable about Abbado. His projects are not ego driven but instead aim to create lasting institutions that will help ensure the future of the orchestral art form. As someone who spends far too much time dreaming of the all the great things I could do with money and influence Abbado is a hero.
The other thing that interests me is that his musicians have such obvious admiration and love of the man. As well the joy the emanates from Abbado on the podium is so evident. This is the difference between Abbado and the authoritarian kappelmeisters of old. As Daniel Harding notes in the documentary about Abbado I will embed below, musicians just play better when they play for Abbado.
Here, (mostly in un-subtitled German unfortunately) is a still interesting documentary about Claudio Abbado.
And here is a link to the playlist for the entire hour program. – youtube