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 Obituary, Jesús López Cobos (1940-2018)

Jesús López CobosThe Spanish conductor Jesús López Cobos, particularly acclaimed for his work in opera and with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, has died aged 78.

Born on 25th February 1940 in Toro (north-west Spain) López Cobos read philosophy at university before studying conducting in Vienna under Hans Swarowsky and going on to win the Besançon International Competition for Young Conductors shortly after finishing his studies. He made his professional operatic debut at La Fenice with Die Zauberflöte in 1969, and began working at the Deutsche Oper Berlin (a house which would play an important role in his career) the following year.

From 1986 to 2001 he served as music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (making him the longest-standing occupant of the post), with whom he made numerous acclaimed recordings on the Telarc label, including music by his compatriots Albéniz and Falla as well as works by Bruckner, Bizet, Mahler, Shostakovich and Respighi (his recording of the latter's Vetrate di Chiesa, released in 2007, was praised by Gramophone for his 'scrupulous attention not just to [the music's] potential for sonorous spectacle but to its wealth of beautifully crafted detail '. He also worked regularly with the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra (serving as principal conductor from 1990-200, during which time he worked tirelessly to raise the orchestra's international profile through tours and major recording projects), his 'home' ensemble the Castile and León Symphony Orchestra (holding the title of Director Emeritus), and the London Philharmonic (with whom he made a celebrated recording of the Verdi Requiem in the early 1980s).

He was also a distinguished opera conductor, particularly in French repertoire and bel canto; having spent the 1980s at the helm of the Deutsche Oper Berlin he became music director at the Teatro Real Madrid in 2003, a position which he held for seven years. (In 2006 the house hosted the inaugural López Cobos International Opera Conductors Competition). Early successes on disc including a superb account of Massenet's Werther in Munich with Plácido Domingo in the title-role (recorded live on Orfeo); more recently, he conducted the same composer's Thaïs to great acclaim at the Metropolitan Opera (the New York Times wrote of his 'beautiful restraint' and Classical Source remarked on the 'surprising substance and cohesion' which he brought to the score) and made studio recordings of Lucia di Lammermoor (with Diana Damrau and Joseph Calleja for Erato) and the rare 1774 Paris version of Gluck's Orphée, starring Juan Diego Flórez, on Decca.

Though he had been ill for some time, Mr López Cobos maintained a busy conducting schedule until the end of his life: his most recent recording (of orchestral works by the contemporary Spanish composer Lorenzo Palomo on Naxos) was released just a couple of weeks ago, and his upcoming engagements at the time of his death included orchestral concerts in France, Spain and Japan as well as a run of Aida at the Vienna State Opera this spring.

Jesús López Cobos - a selected discography

Lorenzo Palomo: Sinfonía Córdoba

Castile and León Symphony Orchestra, Jesús López Cobos

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Respighi: Church Windows, Brazilian Impressions, and Roman Festivals

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Jesús López Cobos

Available Format: CD

España: Works by Falla, Rimsky-Korsakov, Chabrier & Turina

Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Jesús López-Cobos

Available Format: CD

Villa Lobos: Bachianas Brasileiras Nos. 2, 4, 5 & 8

Roberta Alexander (soprano), Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Jesús López-Cobos

Available Format: CD

Albéniz: Iberia, books 1-4 (complete)

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Jesús López-Cobos

Available Format: CD

Verdi: Requiem

Margaret Price, Livia Budai, Giuseppe Giacomini, Robert Lloyd; London Philharmonic Orchestra & Choir, Jesús López-Cobos

Available Formats: 2 CDs, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Massenet: Werther

Brigitte Fassbaender (Charlotte), Plácido Domingo (Werther); Bayerisches Staatsorchester Jesús López-Cobos

Available Formats: 2 CDs, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor

Diana Damrau, Ludovic Tézier, Joseph Calleja; Münchener Opernchor & Orchestra, Jesús López Cobos

Available Formats: 2 CDs, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice

Juan Diego Flórez (Orphée), Ainhoa Garmendia (Eurydice), Alessandra Marianelli (Amour); Teatro Real, Madrid, Jesús López-Cobos

Available Formats: MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Massenet: Thaïs

Renée Fleming (Thaïs), Thomas Hampson (Athanaël), Michael Schade (Nicias); The Metropolitan Opera, Jesús López-Cobos, John Cox

Available Format: DVD Video