Claudio Abbado, one of the most sought-after conductors of his generation, died Monday in Bologna, Italy, at age 80. His death was announced by a spokesperson for Bologna’s mayor, saying that it followed an unspecified long illness. Abbado had been diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2000; following surgery for that illness, he was transformed into a hauntingly gaunt figure.
Over the course of Abbado’s career, he led several of the world’s most revered orchestras and opera companies, including La Scala in Milan, the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Vienna State Opera, and he served as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s principal guest conductor from 1982 to 1985. No matter the setting, he was an artist of rare insight and great lyricism in repertoire from Rossini to Mahler to Russian symphonies to contemporary music.