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Performance notes: Claudio Abbado

Claudio Abbado conducted the best concert I have ever attended—and then surpassed it with his simply extraordinary Mahler’s 9th

By Martin Kettle   October 2010

Maestro: Abbado conducts the Lucerne Festival Orchestra

In my hot youth, to borrow from Byron, the palm (or should it be baton?) for the title of most legendary living conductor undoubtedly belonged to Sergiu Celibidache. The Romanian had given up the job of principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic in 1952, never recorded, rarely performed, demanded immense rehearsal time, increasingly adopted strikingly slow tempi, and was famous for cancelling at the last minute. The only time I ever saw him conduct he appeared, appropriately, with that other legendary recluse and last-minute canceller, the Italian pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli.

When Celibidache…

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