Claudio Abbado, ‘a loss to jazz’
The Swiss violinist Etienne Abelin, a member of Abbado’s ensemble in Lucerne and Bologna, has been pondering why it was that musicians dropped everything in order to play in his handpicked orchestras. Here’s his offbeat assessment:
Some years ago, in Bologna, my friend the Belgian Jazz saxophonist and composer Fabrizio Cassol listened to a concert of the Orchestra Mozart with Abbado and was blown away. He told me afterwards: “You know, what you guys are doing is Jazz!”
It took me a while to understand what he meant. Now I agree: I think Claudio, in his Indian summer, was essentially a jazz artist. It was Claudio “The Risktaker” Abbado. He had the courage to want nothing, to be completely open to how things developed in making music with the orchestra. And then gently guide this process and let the many musical flowers evolving become a garden. Of course only after having internalized the score for so long and so profoundly that its flows, textures and emotional narratives became second nature. Then, in playing, a suggestion of a direction or expression could come from him, but very often also from groups or individuals in the orchestra. As a string group principal in Bologna, I could initiate going into a direction, with a certain expression. Open as he was, he would listen, understand, carry it on and then you could just let yourself be carried for a while, guided in what was essentially your own mini-story in the first place. So exhilharating. And on and on, throughout the piece. A constant give and take.
Ever wondered why all these great soloists and chamber musicians came to Lucerne and Bologna time and again to play so-called orchestra? Because actually we gathered for guided collective improvisations. Everybody’s creative and expressive capacities were in full demand, all the time. Not far in spirit from Dixieland, or Ornette Coleman. The world of Jazz lost one of its masters last Monday.