Claudio Abbado was born into a family of musicians in Milan. He studied piano, conducting and composition at the Milan Conservatory, then moved to Vienna, where he studied under Hans Swarowsky at the Wiener Musikakademie. He won the Koussevitzky Prize in Tanglewood in 1958 and received the fi rst prize at the Mitropoulos Competition in New York in 1963, which earned him the position of assistant to Leonard Bernstein. Herbert von Karajan invited Abbado to the Salzburger Festspiele in 1965, where he conducted the Vienna Philharmonic. In the following year, he made his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic. From 1968 to 1986, Abbado was musical director of La Scala, Milan, where he established his reputation as an innovator keen to promote contemporary music and Regietheater (director’s theatre). He is also widely acclaimed for having opened the venue to a more diverse audience. During his time at La Scala, Abbado’s international career also fl ourished.
He was chief conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra from 1979 to 1988, directed the Vienna Philharmonic and the Wiener Staatsoper from 1986 to 1991, and was appointed director of the Berlin Philharmonic in 1989. Abbado took over the leadership of the Salzburg Easter Festival in 1994. After leaving Berlin in 2002, he brought the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA, which has played yearly since 2003, into being. Encouraging young musical talent is a cause close to Abbado’s heart. In 1978, he was one of the founders of the European Community Youth Orchestra and later helped to set up the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. In 1986, he launched the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra and in 2004, the Orchestra Mozart. Abbado has received countless awards, including the Siemens-Musikpreis in 1994 and the Praemium Imperiale in 2003.