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Douglas Boyd, COE's Former Principal Oboe

“Life changing is the expression which comes to mind. As a fairly ignorant 19 year old I will never forget the first rehearsal of Bruckner 7 with the European Community Youth Orchestra and the realisation that he was changing the entire sound of the orchestra with a gesture. His idealism and love for the music were the inspiration for a group of us to decide that this is what music making should be about for the rest of our lives. It is the reason that the Chamber Orchestra of Europe came into being.

Concerts were always an event, characterised not only by his dynamism and energy but by the beauty of his conducting and his special gift of pacing, his sense of the epic journey of a large symphony.  Lots of memories too off the platform, of late night parties all over the world and especially wild ones in Ferrara, often paid for by Claudio - which might include a bottle of treasured Sassicaia. But it is the concerts that I will most remember - our first European tour which established the quality and reputation of the COE, many concerts which left both musicians and audience moved to tears; the joy of Viaggio a Rheims in Pesaro with a world-class cast that Claudio had assembled; triumphant tours of the US and Japan, including one tour that literally circumnavigated the world. 

My last concert as an oboist was at the Cité de la Musique in Paris with Claudio Abbado in 2002 - Anne Sofie von Otter and Thomas Quasthoff performing transcriptions of Schubert songs and the last two symphonies by Schubert, a composer with whom Claudio was completely at ease. He was just recovering from his first illness and was so gaunt and skeletal. To share a platform with Claudio and Thomas, both of whom had suffered such debilitating conditions and see them make wonderful music together is a memory I shall always treasure.”