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Claudio Abbado and the COE

From the very moment James Judd passed the baton to Claudio Abbado at our inaugural concert in May 1981, we embarked on the most exciting of musical journeys which spanned twenty one years. Whether on or off the stage, it has been our great good fortune to share with Claudio in the creation and the development of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.

Over those years from 1981 to 2002, we gave a considerable number of great concerts (please click here for details) with Claudio throughout the world. Our legacy is now the astonishing list of award-winning recordings (see list here). For those of us who came to know Claudio well, there was something remarkable about a man of so few words who nevertheless had such a truly profound impact on the musical lives of so many.

Many members of the COE expressed their sadness at the news of Claudio’s death, and offered many personal tributes reflecting a deep warmth of feeling for this extraordinary man. Claudio’s spirit will continue to live on through his exceptional music making which has touched all our hearts.

Lorenza Borrani (Leader) - "It feels like one of the most important chapters of my musical life suddenly ended that Monday morning." Read more

Douglas Boyd (Former Principal Oboe) - "Life changing is the expression which comes to mind." Read more

Fiona Brett (Violin) - "I first met Claudio when I joined the ECYO in its second year of existence, 1978. He was an incredibly inspirational musician but he always had an amazing sense of humour." Read more

Will Conway (Principal Cello) - "Nothing compares with the first concert we did with Claudio when he stepped on to the podium at the last moment to conduct the fledgling COE in Mozart’s 29th Symphony" Read more

Charlotte Geselbracht-Walterspiel (Former Member) - “The experience of playing Mahler’s sixth symphony in the very first year of ECYO with Claudio conducting was the beginning of a magical transformation for both conductor and musicians." Read more

Iris Juda (Violin) - “Claudio didn’t say so much in rehearsals. He always preferred to show with his face or hands whatever he wanted." Read more

Joe Rappaport (Violin) - “I believe that without Claudio’s help and support there would be no COE." Read more

Peter Richards (Horn) - “Having first played with COE in 1982 I was privileged to experience most of the Abbado era with COE." Read more

Lutz Schumacher (Double-bass) - “Claudio was a conductor who loved the sound of the basses and especially the very low notes on a five string double bass." Read more

Enno Senft (Principal Double-bass) - “For me Claudio Abbado and the COE will be linked forever through Rossini’s music." Read more

Dorle Sommer (Viola) - “When I think of Claudio it is not words I remember, it is his unique freedom in music-making and a big trust in the fact that emotions can open all our hearts…" Read more

Nick Thompson (Principal Trumpet) - "It was a great privilege to have played for him many times over several years, and to have basked in a little of the warmth, light and extreme beauty that he created." Read more

Thank you, Claudio.

Video - Claudio Abbado and the COE playing Strawinsky, Rihm, Schönberg, Brahms and Beethoven at Berlin's Kammermusiksaal der Philharmonie in 1988

Claudio Abbado, the COE and Ferrara Musica

In 1988 Claudio had the idea of inviting the Chamber Orchestra of Europe to become resident at the newly renovated Teatro Communale in Ferrara. He had worked closely with the Mayor of Ferrara and many others to create Ferrara Musica, and indeed he conducted the first concerts of Ferrara Musica in April 1989 with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Maria-Joao Pires as soloist in Schumann’s piano concerto.

He then returned every year until 1998 to join the COE in Ferrara with a great range of projects (see more details here) including four opera productions – of Rossini’s Viaggio a Reims and Barber of Seville, and Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni.   He also conducted numerous concerts with soloists including his friends Evgeny Kissin, Radu Lupu and Maurizio Pollini, as well as a host of celebrated singers including Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo.

His last appearances at Ferrara Musica with the Orchestra were for performances of Don Giovanni, recorded by Deutsche Grammophon, and including as soloists both Simon Keenlyside and Bryn Terfel, a recording which won great critical acclaim and which brought to a close the COE’s residency in Ferrara.

Ferrara Musica provided a platform for the COE to work regularly with Claudio, and indeed Ferrara soon became a second home for many members of the Orchestra, who will never forget their wonderful years of making music together in such a beautiful city.


Peter Readman
Co-Founder and Chairman of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe
March 2014

List of all of the COE projects with Claudio Abbado through the years