The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association joins the music world in mourning the death of the eminent conductor Jesús López-Cobos. Known for his long music directorship of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (1986-2001), the Spanish-born maestro led the CSO on several occasions, most recently in May 2017. He died March 2 in Berlin, just days after his 78th birthday, from cancer-related causes.
Jeff Alexander, president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, worked with Maestro López-Cobos during their joint tenure at Cincinnati. He released this statement:
“We lost today a wonderful conductor and extraordinary human being.
“It was my great honor and privilege to work closely with Maestro López-Cobos for 15 years at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, including 12 as his artistic administrator and general manager. Jesús, our President Steve Monder and I were joined at the hip, working day in and day out on the short- and long-term goals of the organization. His concerts were beautifully conducted, and his commitment to the institution, community, members of the orchestra and administration was unyielding.
“Jesús leaves a wonderful legacy of recordings, radio and television broadcasts with the CSO and several other orchestras around the world. His music-making was extremely sensitive and heartwarming, and I am certain will be remembered with great fondness by the millions of people who attended his performances over his 50-plus-years career.
“My wife, Keiko, and I became very close friends with Jesús and his wife, Brigitte, and will cherish that friendship for the rest of our lives. We last spoke with him by phone on Christmas Day, as we had every previous Christmas Day for the past 30 years. We will miss him dearly, and be forever grateful for the musical experiences he gave us, and for his warm, nurturing and supportive friendship.”
Along with Cincinnati, where he remained conductor emeritus until his death, Maestro López-Cobos was music director at the Teatro Real in Madrid (2003-10), Lausanne Chamber Orchestra (1991-2000), Deutsche Oper Berlin (1981-90) and Orquesta Nacional de España (1984-89). He also was principal guest conductor with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (1981-86).
An acclaimed interpreter of both symphonic and operatic works, Maestro López-Cobos was known for his extensive repertoire. In 1978, he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur (starring Montserrat Caballé and José Carreras) and went on to lead 38 performances there through 2008.
Though a welcome guest conductor throughout the world, Maestro López-Cobos appeared infrequently in Chicago over the last two decades. Before his 2017 engagement, he last conducted the CSO in 1986. At Lyric Opera of Chicago, he was on the podium for Verdi’s Rigoletto in the 2005-06 season. He conducted the CSO at the Ravinia Festival in the 1981 and 1983 seasons.
“How sad for the music world to lose such a refined musician and gentleman as Maestro López-Cobos,” said Cristina Rocca, CSO vice president for artistic planning. “It was a real pleasure to discuss with him the program for his concerts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which he conducted in May 2017. He had the enthusiasm and curiosity of a much younger man, a deep love for music and an encyclopedic knowledge of the repertoire. He will be deeply missed.”
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra will offer a moment of silence before each of this weekend’s concerts and will dedicate its performances on March 23-24 in Maestro Lopez-Cobos’ memory. In a statement, Cincinnati administrators said, “His extraordinary tenure as music director here in Cincinnati from 1986 to 2001 had a lasting impact, and he forged so many wonderful friendships. We grieve with his family and honor and celebrate his tremendous legacy.”