Incredible precision in every musical detail, total clarity of formal structure, and polyphonic transparency were the principal characteristics of Claudio Abbado’s conducting. Abbado made his first recording for Deutsche Grammophon in 1967: benchmark readings of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.3 with Martha Argerich. His numerous recordings over the following decades include the complete symphonic works of Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Ravel and Schubert, as well as more than a dozen complete operas.
Gustavo Gimeno, Abbado’s last assistant, remembers how, even more than in the past, the conductor would avoid subdividing the beat: “He conducted with broad, slow movements, with a long musical line, trying to create a form in which the musical discourse could develop. Slow, but flowing.”
Claudio Abbado - Schumann (2012/2013)Deutsche Grammophon
Claudio Abbado conducting Schumann
Across the span of a remarkable 40-year career, the Amadeus Quartet achieved legendary status. The ensemble touched countless lives with profound interpretations of the core Austro-German string quartet repertoire and created a legacy of great recordings against which all others are still measured.
Amadeus Quartet (1948)Deutsche Grammophon
The line-up of the Amadeus Quartet, whose members referred to themselves as the “Wolf-Gang”, remained unchanged throughout its history.
The Amadeus Quartet made their first DG recordings in 1951. In 1959, having already recorded Brahms, Haydn, Mozart and Schubert, they embarked on a complete stereo recording of the Beethoven quartets. The ensemble disbanded in 1987 following the death of violist Peter Schidlof.
Like Horowitz, Cziffra, Miles Davis or Jimi Hendrix, Martha Argerich belongs to that breed of performers who have a wonderfully natural rapport with their instrument. When she plays the piano, it’s no longer just a piano: it becomes a violin, a harp, a clarinet, or the whole crashing orchestra together. It was in 1960 that DG signed an exclusive agreement with Martha Argerich, one of a number of leading pianists who were to join the label over the following decades.
Martha Argerich by © Erich AuerbachDeutsche Grammophon
When Argerich was fourteen, she left Argentina for Vienna to study with Friedrich Gulda, to whom she represented “the complete artist”.
Arguably still the most famous female pianist in the world, Martha Argerich is more than just an outstanding musician: she’s a legend in her own lifetime. Her exceptional pianism is particularly beautifully captured in the recordings she made for Deutsche Grammophon in the 1960s and 1970s.
Martha Argerich & Claudio Abbado (2004) by © Marco Caselli NirmalDeutsche Grammophon
Argerich and Abbado together in a recording of two Mozart piano concertos
No other living musician draws on such seemingly unlimited resources as Daniel Barenboim. Not only does he enjoy a twin perspective on music – as both pianist and conductor – but he also commands an enormous repertory that includes orchestral music and operas and extends from Bach to Boulez.
Daniel Barenboim (2012) by © Felix BroedeDeutsche Grammophon
Daniel Barenboim’s long-term association with Deutsche Grammophon began in 1972.
Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin (2014) by © Matthias Creutziger / UnitelDeutsche Grammophon
Barenboim is principal conductor of the Berlin Staatskapelle. Under his leadership, the Staatskapelle has worked its way through entire libraries of music scores and in so doing has earned a unique reputation among German orchestras.
Daniel Barenboim - DebussyDeutsche Grammophon
Barenboim on Debussy.
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau made his stage debut in 1948 as Posa in Verdi’s “Don Carlos” at what was then the Städtische Oper in Berlin. In 1949 he made his first recordings for Deutsche Grammophon.
Fischer-Dieskau & Karajan (1968) by © Siegfried LauterwasserDeutsche Grammophon
From the start of his career, the young baritone was active not only as a Lieder recitalist but also on stage, over time gaining increasing self-confidence and freedom as an actor.
His operatic career developed very quickly, and in 1954 he made his Bayreuth debut as Wolfram in “Tannhäuser”. By the time he sang Mandryka in Richard Strauss’s “Arabella” in Munich in 1960, Fischer-Dieskau was already internationally renowned. Other roles for which he was particularly acclaimed include Kurwenal, Wotan, Jokanaan, Barak and Count Almaviva.
Pianist and composer Wilhelm Kempff was born on 25 November 1895 – his life therefore overlapped that of Brahms by two years. In 1920 he made the first of many recordings for Deutsche Grammophon (miniatures by Beethoven).
Wilhelm Kempff & Yehudi Menuhin (1970) by © Julian HannDeutsche Grammophon
Yehudi Menuhin praised Kempff for achieving “a supreme integration of the natural and spontaneous on the one hand and, on the other, rigorous respect for the composer’s intention”. Menuhin also called him “the noblest exponent of the German tradition”, a pianist who remained true to “the age when clock and metronome had not yet taken over the organic rhythm of the music and who was at the same time truer to our age in his self-discipline”.
Throughout his long life, Kempff enjoyed lasting acclaim, admiration and even veneration. That he was one of the few truly outstanding pianists of the twentieth century is now generally acknowledged, an assessment that, with the passage of time, has found a growing number of adherents and that can cite in its support the many recordings that Kempff made over a period of more than 50 years, all of them as artistically relevant now as they were when they were first made.
Born 5 January 1942 in Milan, Maurizio Pollini began piano lessons at six and gave his first recital four years later. In his teens he garnered serious attention for a Milan recital that featured all 24 Chopin Études. He was then awarded first prize in the 1960 International Chopin Competition, the chair of the jury Arthur Rubinstein declaring, “That boy plays technically better than any of us jurors.”
Maurizio Pollini (2001) by © Siegfried LauterwasserDeutsche Grammophon
Pollini cemented his reputation for fastidious technical standards, unflappable consistency, uncompromising programmes, and a fierce determination to serve the composer first and foremost.
Maurizio Pollini - Debussy: Prelude II (2018)Deutsche Grammophon
Maurizio Pollini - Debussy Préludes II - Quotes
Claudio Abbado & Martha Argerich (1967) by © Ilse BuhsDeutsche Grammophon
Musicians such as these, who perform with enormous insight, individuality and passion, are the lifeblood of Deutsche Grammophon. Who knows which artists and what repertoire will thrill the music lovers of the future...