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ITALIAN CONDUCTOR CHOSEN TO LEAD BERLIN PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA

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Claudio Abbado, musical director of the Vienna State Opera, was chosen Sunday to succeed the late Herbert von Karajan as chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra.

Abbado, 56, was selected in a secret ballot by the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra's 120 musicians and accepted the post in a telephone conversation, Anke Martiny, West Berlin's chief cultural official, told reporters.Abbado, who will be only the fifth chief conductor in the 107-year-old state-subsidized Berlin Philharmonic, was not considered among the favorites for the post.

Abbado, a native of Milan, Italy, is considered among the world's top conductors and has made guest appearances with the Berlin Philharmonic since 1966.

No date was immediately set for him to take up his new position, since he is still bound by contract to the Vienna opera. Martiny said negotiations "will not be easy."