Jesús López Cobos has died at the age of 78

Gramophone Fri 2nd March 2018

The Spanish conductor was former Music Director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Teatro Real in Madrid

Jesús López Cobos (photo: Georges Braunschweig)

Jesús López Cobos (photo: Georges Braunschweig)

The Spanish conductor Jesús López Cobos has died in Berlin at the age of 78.

López Cobos held several music director positions at leading orchestras throughout a long and successful career. He was the Music Director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra from 1986 to 2001, making several highly-regarded recordings for Telarc, and later became their Conductor Emeritus. López Cobos was also General Music Director of the Deutsche Oper in Berlin from 1981 to 1990, Music Director of the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra from 1991 to 2000 and Music Director of the Teatro Real in Madrid from 2003 to 2010. 

Among his most highly regarded recordings for Telarc with the Cincinnati SO were a Respighi disc, including Church Windows, Brazilian Impressions and Roman Festivals, of which Gramophone's Michael Oliver commented: 'if every colour is precisely rendered, the quiet passages as affectionately turned as they are here (and it's surprising how much of this score is quiet), what skill there is to be found in it, what a gift for immaculately precise instrumental detail.'

In fact, it was often López Cobos's superb ear for instrumental balance, colour and detail that separated his recordings and performances from those of other conductors. His recording of Shostakovich's First and 15th Symphonies, also with the Cincinnati SO, drew high praise from Gramophone's David Fanning: 'By dint of careful preparation López Cobos brings exceptional clarity to the First Symphony‚ forcing you to admire afresh the sheer inventiveness of the teenage Shostakovich’s counterpoint.'

The recording of the 15th Symphony was singled-out by Philip Clark in his Gramophone Collection article surveying every recording of the work in 2008. Clark called the recording 'A valuable blueprint, full of fastidious orchestral detail and an ear for a good narrative. A faithful rendering of Shostakovich's intentions.'

In 1983, López Cobos made a great live recording of Verdi's Messa da Requiem with soloists Margaret Price, Livia Budai, Giuseppe Giacomini and Robert Lloyd with the London Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra. 'Central to the experience,' wrote Gramophone's Richard Osborne, 'is the 43-year-old Spanish born Jesús López Cobos, whose conducting has fire, grace and an enviably unselfconscious feel for the work's musical and spiritual dynamic.'

From López Cobos's time at Teatro Real in Madrid there are several outstanding DVD/Blu-ray performances, including Verdi's La traviata, Puccini's La bohème, and a wonderful Cav & Pag. The La traviata DVD was an Editor's Choice in September 2006. Alan Blyth remarked that 'López Cobos conducts an interpretation notable for yielding support of his singers combined with dramatic dash, and the Madrid orchestra play as though their lives depended on the results. No wonder this staging has received so much praise in Spain.'

López Cobos was active right up until his death, indeed his website still lists performances that he was due to give in the coming months, including Verdi's Aida and Un ballo in maschera at the Vienna State Opera. 

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