Claudio Abbado, known as a musician's musician, shunned the publicity and pomp often associated with leading conductors, and supported young musicians.

He died in the northern city of Bologna in his native Italy after a long illness, aged 80.

"We have lost one of the greatest musicians of the last 50 years and one of the very few to have a close connection with the spirit of music in all its various forms," La Scala's current musical director, Daniel Barenboim, said in a statement.

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Picture: EPA