The laudatory speech by Bruno Ganz in the English translation.


Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our as always, and today in particular, highly revered Claudio Abbado,

Whenever we are deeply moved, when something has touched our innermost being, then there is a tendency for us to remain silent. We are silent because we are hurt, horrified, in shock.

Or we may be silent because we are experiencing bliss, deep emotion. Music can do that to us. It is its abundance and richness, its endless beauty, which remind us of who we are, that do that to us. It is music, and I believe only music, which is able to stir men’s hearts so directly and fundamentally. In this respect, it is superior to both language and art.

But I am here to speak to you today. I cannot address you with the first or second symphony of a Brueckner or a Mahler symphony. That is the realm of the maestro, the maestro who, like a magnanimous king, wants to delight us, to captivate us, and we are even grateful to him for this. For do we not, as we listen so intently, move towards our centre?

‚Stop’ a warning sound tells me, a cor anglais perhaps, here are the boundaries of language, and as Wittgenstein puts it, „Whereof one cannot speak, thereof must one be silent“.

So let’s try a detour – un altro sentiero: the path we take crosses a slope. We climb, he in front of me, briskly, effortlessly. Our breathing is barely audible. There is a humming in the grass, from the low bushes and the alpine roses. The sky is a deep blue, below at the bottom of the valley, a stream, a few farmhouses, a tractor, human voices can be made out. Stones crunch underfoot, loose stones slip away. A dragonfly flies past. I think of his elegance (and his grace) as he stands in front of the orchestra, immersed in the music. I can hear the sound our trousers make as we walk. A gentle breeze caresses the pine trees and the Swiss stone pines. Peace. And in another scene Hoelderlin writes,

Waters, however, trickle down and softly
A rustling is audible all day long there
But the dwelling places thereabouts
Rest and are silent through the afternoon.                     (Translated by David Constantine)

A helicopter will soon whisk him away from the blueberries and take him to the town (Lucerne).

Sometimes one would like to embrace him. ‚Complimenti’, we say, and ‚magnificent’, ‚wonderful’ and things like that. And it is all true of course.

Maestro Claudio Abbado, still in his work clothes so to speak, smiles contentedly and simply says, „Aa, che bella musica“ – and he is not referring to our words of praise.

What can he hear, far up there in the rocks behind the granite rock face, that he is pointing to from our narrow trail? I ask what he was doing there, why he went there. It was curiosity, he answers. Praised be his cuuriosity. He can hear the snow – one would expect that.

Sometimes after concerts conducted by Claudio Abbado with one of his great orchestras, there is a deep silence. Hundreds of people in the auditorium gaze up at the rostrum, motionless, still hearing the music they have listened to, and it seems to me that they would like to remain in this state – for ever and ever.

But I am not here to talk about eternity, but about commitment and an investment in the future. That sounds more like the slogans of our banks, but it is not altogether wrong.

At a fairly early age Claudio Abbado was already directing his attention towards young musicians. He founded the European Union Youth Orchestra 33 years ago, and then in 1981 the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.

Later came:
The Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra (1986), the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (1997), the Lucerne Festival Orchestra (2003) and the Orchestra Mozart (2004).

In Lucerne you have also experienced assistants of Claudio’s conducting. More will follow, I am sure, because it is a labor of love, the love of music, and that lasts for ever, as we all know. And is it not wise to expect something of these young people, to receive something from them? And is it not wonderful to make young faces light up with enthusiasm?

Our heartfelt congratulations to you, Claudio Abbado.

Thank you.


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