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In Memoriam: Sir Colin Davis (1927-2013)

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Sir Colin Davis, the world-renowned conductor who led the London Symphony Orchestra for many years left us this past April after a six-month illness. He was 85.

According to his obituary (link provided above), Davis’ rich and fulfilling conducting career followed an at times chaotic path – from struggle to consolidation, crisis and an emphatic final victory. In his triumphant, but never placid, Indian summer, Davis continued above all to adorn his own monument as the unassailable leading interpreter of the 19th century's most individual composer, Hector Berlioz, frequently returning to other idols in a broad if selective repertoire that ranged from Mozart to Tippett.

Unlike many of his peers, Davis did not come from a household of musicians (his father was a bank clerk) and although his teachers tried to steer him towards a career in biology or chemistry (subjects in which he excelled) he was determined on a life in music.

Formed as a clarinetist, he found himself barred from conducting classes at the Royal College of Music because he did not have the standard background of apprentice conductors; a piano formation. "Conducting has more to do with singing and breathing than with piano-playing" he remarked in 1991.

After military service, which he fulfilled as a clarinetist with the Household Cavalry, he conducted other graduates of the RCM in the newly formed Kalmar Orchestra. Out of the orchestra came the semi-professional Chelsea Opera Group, which invited him to conduct performances of Mozart operas. In Mozart, he later told the New York Times, he found "all those things that helped keep me together … in Mozart you find a fantastic balance between the elements that make up music and make up a human being".

After struggles as a freelance conductor from 1949 to 1957, he gained a series of appointments with orchestras including the BBC Scottish Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. He also held the musical directorships of Sadler's Wells Opera and the Royal Opera House, where he was principal conductor for over fifteen years. His guest conductorships included the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and the Staatskapelle Dresden, among many others.

In 1995, Davis was appointed principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. It was the culmination of a long association with the orchestra. He had first conducted the LSO in 1959, and in 1964 he headed the orchestra's first world tour. He became principal guest conductor in 1975 and was at the helm in the LSO's first major series at its new home, the Barbican Centre, in a Berlioz/Tippett festival in 1983.

During his time with the LSO, both as principal conductor and later as president, Davis conducted series and cycles of the music of Sibelius, Berlioz, Bruckner, Mozart, Elgar, Beethoven, and Brahms.

Davis' discography is extensive; he made his first record in 1959, working with major labels and small independent labels, and for the in-house LSO Live label. His Philips survey of the works by Berlioz is still today viewed as one of the finest available – and is the point of departure for our YouTube homage.

He recorded extensively not only with the LSO, but also with the Royal Concedrtgebouw orchestra (Haydn’s 12 London symphonies, one of which is part of the playlist).

Completing the playlist, Mozart, Stravinsky and Elgar.

Happy listening!

(All works conducted by Sir Colin Davis)

Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
Le Roi Lear (King Lear), , grande ouverture, in A Minor , op. 4 [H. 53)
London Symphony Orchestra

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto no.20 in D minor, K.466
(Cadenzas: Paul Badura-Skoda)
Alicia de Larrocha, piano
English Chamber Orchestra

Franz Josef HAYDN (1732-1809)
Symphony no. 100 in G Major, Hob. I:100 (Military)
Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest

Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
"Basle" Concerto in D (1946)
Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest

Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Enigma Variations, op.36
Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest

Playlist URL:

November 15, 2013, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will feature a new podcast "The Bells" at its Pod-O-Matic Channel . Read more November 15 on the ITYWLTMT Blogspot blog.

Updated Nov-12-2013 at 11:29 by itywltmt

Classical Music , Conductors , Recorded Music