The great conductor Claudio Abbado passed away on 20 January 2014. May he rest in peace.
Although Abbado's Bruckner symphony recordings are limited to Nos. 1, 4, 5, 7 and 9, they spanned a period of 43 years, from his first in 1969 to his last in 2012.
He was among the group of conductors to record for Decca in a complete cycle (from No. 1 to No. 9) with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in the 1960's-1970's. He conducted Symphony No. 1 in C minor, a recording which even to this day sounds wonderfully refreshing. An interesting Melodiya LP contains a 1972 recording of the same symphony with the same orchestra. Then we had had to wait for another 18 years before he made a new batch of Bruckner recordings (from 1990-1996), again with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra but this time on Deutsche Grammophon. These recordings were not uniformly successful. I was impressed by his excellent First and a very good Ninth, but the other three were slightly overshadowed by many new or reissued CDs at that time, arguably the golden age of Bruckner recordings.
Then came another hiatus until we got his live recording of Bruckner 7 with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in 2005 on DVD, a lyrical and memorable performance. Thereafter, each and every Bruckner issues are live recordings, be it audio or video, with 'his' Lucerne Festival Orchestra. The Fourth (2006) is one of my favourite recordings of this symphony. It was followed by a truly gorgeous Fifth (2011) on DVD and Blu-ray, another of my favourite. His last Bruckner offering is the Vienna version of the First (2012) on CD, first issued in the large box-set Claudio Abbado The Symphony Edition from DG, and then individually by the copyright holder Accentus.
It is seemingly predestined that his last Bruckner recording is Symphony No. 1 in C minor when his first was the same symphony more than 40 years ago. There are also some interesting facts about this symphony and him. He is the first and up to this day the only conductor to record this symphony officially with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra -- 'The Bruckner Orchestra'. He is also the only conductor to have the largest number of recordings of this symphony, 4 including both the Linz and the Vienna versions.
Although his Bruckner recordings are limited to only 5 symphonies, his later ones with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra have gifted us some exuberant and chamber-music-like renditions which are truly memorable. He will be remembered fondly.