He is seen as the finest conductor in the world – yet he doesn’t tell orchestras how to play. Claudio Abbado grants Tom Service a rare interview aboard a private jet
Wednesday August 22, 2007
The Italian conductor Claudio Abbado is rehearsing the hundred-plus players of his hand-picked Lucerne Festival Orchestra in Mahler’s Third Symphony, in the splendour of Jean Nouvel’s concert hall in Lucerne, a performance he repeats at the Proms tonight. There’s a moment, right at the end, that embodies the symbiotic alchemy between the conductor and the musicians. Mahler’s final chord is a long-held affirmation of love, of song. The Lucerne players give Abbado a magnificent, full-bodied sound, apparently playing at the limits of their ability. But as the double-basses pick out a sonorous note right at the bottom of their instruments, Abbado glances over at them, and suddenly the whole orchestra is supported by a massive upswelling, a sonic foundation on which the rest of the orchestra floats.
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