Conductor Claudio Abbado, 1933-2014.

(Photo: Cordula Groth/Deutsche Grammophon)
A worthy overview of Claudio Abbado’s work requires listening to hours of full symphonies and operas. 

The legendary conductor, whose death was announced earlier today, left behind a massive record catalog spanning nearly half a century. He recorded with the Berlin Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony and many other groups.

He coaxed orchestras into giving nuanced performances that shed new light on symphonic warhorses. But he also took care not to trample an ensemble’s unique sound.

He championed 20th century compositions, including new works by composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen and Giacomo Manzoni, but also reinvigorated classics of Italian opera by Verdi, Rossini and others.

He oversaw vibrant takes on Mozart’s orchestral works. (CPR’s David Rutherford says Abbado’s Mozart recordings are “absolutely the finest” around, and this one by Abbado’s Orchestra Mozart is particularly stellar. An excerpt is in the playlist below.)

And he conducted powerhouse recordings of symphonies by Mahler, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and many others.

A resume like that is worth celebrating. So, while this one-hour playlist can’t begin to capture every facet of a conductor who excelled in so many ways, it’s only intended as a taste of his work.

There are no full symphonies or opera productions included, but there are outstanding individual movements and excerpts. Many of the conductors and ensembles associated with Abbado are also in the mix. You’ll need a Spotify account to listen.

If this leaves you wanting more, Abbado’s legacy is remarkably well preserved on record.

Further listening: The Guardian also recommends a list of essential Abbado albums.

What’s your favorite Abbado recording? Weigh in below or share your thoughts on CPR Classical’s Facebook page.