Claudio Abbado made his debut in 1960 at the Teatro alla Scala Milan in which he was music director from 1968 to 1986. From 1986 to 1991 he became Music Director of the Vienna State Opera and then General Music Director of the city of Vienna from 1987. In 1988 he founded the Modern Festival in Vienna to highlight contemporary music and art.
He conducted the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra for the first time in 1966 and in 1989, the orchestra elected him as their Artistic Director. In 1994 Claudio Abbado was named Artistic Director of the Salzburg Easter Festival. To complement the opera production and symphonic concerts, he was also responsible for adding a contemporary chamber music series and prizes for musical compositions and operaric works.
Claudio Abbado has always been interested in nurturing young talent. In 1978 he founded the European Community Youth Orchestra, in 1981 the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and in 1986 the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra out of which he also formed the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.
In August 2003 he made his debut with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, which was founded for Arturo Toscannini, and is comprised of musicians who work regularly with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic and international soloists from the Ensemble Sabine Meyer, Hagen Quartet and elements of the Alban Berg Quartet.
2004 saw the birth of the Orchestra Mozart in which he became the Music and Artistic Director. The orchestra is formed of soloists and leaders of prestigious orchestras who play alongside younger musicians from across Europe.
In 2005 he began collaborating with the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela in Caracas and Havana, an orchestra founded on the amazing initiative of Jose Antonio Abreu over thirty years ago. The orchestra is made up of over 250 young musicians coming from the poor shanty towns of Venezuala and to whom the orchestra provide instruments and a proper education.
Of his many recordings, Claudio Abbado has recorded all of the great symphonic works of Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Tchaikowsky, Mahler, Ravel, Prokofiev as well as the operas of Mozart, Rossini, Verdi and Wagner. In 2000 he released a recording of all of Beethoven’s symphonies recorded with the Berlin Philharmonic as well as a highly acclaimed series of live recordings on DVD of Beethoven symphonies and piano concertos taped in Rome and Vienna in February 2001. His recordings have received many prestigious awards including International Grammy Award, Grand Prix International du Disque, Diapason d’or, Record Academy Prize, Stella d’oro, Orphee d’or and the Grand Prix de la Nouvelle Academie.
Claudio Abbado has received numerous awards including the Gran Croce Ordine al Merito and the Gold Medal of the Benemeriti della cultura e dell’arte, the French Grand Croix de la Légion d’Honneur and the Austrian order of the Grosse Goldenes Ehrenzeichen. In 2001 the President of the German Federal Republic awarded him the largest award of state for exemplary service to the arts in Berlin: Das Grosse Verdienstkreuz mit Stern and in May 2004 he was conferred with the “Ernst Reutter Plakette”. He has been awarded honorary doctorates by Cambridge University, Aberdeen, Ferrara and Basilicata and most recently was awarded Honorary Citizenship from the town of Bologna.