Obituary: Conductor Jesús Lopez Cobos Dies, Age 78

By Logan Martell

Famed conductor Jesus Lopez Cobos has passed away today, March 2, 2018, in the city of Berlin; the cause of death is given as complications due to cancer.

Throughout his career, Cobos was music director with a number of prominent orchestras, such as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, with which he would become their Conductor Emeritus; Deutsche Oper, where he served as General Music Director from 1981 to 1990; Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, from 1991 through 2000; Teatro Real in Madrid, where he was music director from 2003 to 2010; and Orquestra Nacional de España from 1984 to 1988.

After earning a degree in philosophy from Complutense University of Madrid, Cobos would go on to study conducting at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, under the guidance of Franco Ferrara and Hans Swarowsky. This came about due to, despite having no formal training in music, conducting the university’s choir. He won First Prize in the Besancon Competition three years later and would make his debut as a conductor at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice.

As a conductor, Cobos was widely regarded for his aural prowess; his recording of Shostakovich’s 1st and 15th symphonies would garner praise the latter of which being referred to by Gramophone’s Philip Clark as, “A valuable blueprint, full of fastidious orchestral detail and an ear for good narrative. A faithful rendering of Shostakovich’s intentions.”

Cobos has conducted performances at Teatro alla Scala, the Royal Opera House, and the Metropolitan Opera. During his time with Berlin Opera he would conduct Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen” cycle at the Berlin Festival, the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and the first complete cycle to be staged in Japan.

Cobos’ passing comes as a great surprise; he was engaged to a number of performances in the coming months, including Verdi’s “Aida” and “Un ballo in maschera” with the Vienna State Opera. Though his death was untimely, there exist a great many recordings of Cobos’ performances that will continue to educate and delight lovers of music for years to come; a talent and leadership such as his will not be soon forgotten.