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Classical Music

Italian conductor Claudio Abbado dies, aged 80

The Italian conductor Claudio Abbado has passed away at the age of 80. He worked with many of the world’s leading orchestras and spent over a decade as the head of the Berlin Philharmonic.

Abbado's death was announced in a statement released by his relatives on Monday.

"This morning at 8:30 am (0730 UTC) Claudio Abbado died peacefully surrounded by his family," the statement said. "Information about his funeral will be announced at a later stage."

Abbado was born into a musical family in Milan on June 26, 1933, and was educated in both his hometown and Vienna.

His career began at Milan's La Scala opera house in 1960. Abbado would go on to spend almost two decades as the house's musical director. From 1979 to 1988 Abbado also conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, receiving critical praise for concerts of pieces by Gustav Mahler, his favorite composer.

From 1986 to 1991, he served as musical director with Vienna's Staatsoper, and in October 1989, following the death of Herbert von Karajan, Abbado was elected to head the Berlin Philharmonic, where he worked until 2002.

He also made hundreds of recordings of a wide range of classical music.

In sharp contrast with the stereotype of conductors being tyrants, Abbado was known and widely loved for his humane, gentle manner.

"I am not their boss, we work together," he would often say.

Last August, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano named Abbado a member of the country's upper house of parliament, the senate. However he rarely took his seat in the senate due to health problems which plagued him for the past several years.

pfd/kms (AFP, dpa, AP)

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