ORFEO International


April 2013

† Sir Colin Davis

Sir Colin Davis died on 14 April 2013 at the age of 85. He was one of the most significant conductors on the international scene in recent decades. And yet while he was active on the podium of the most renowned orchestras in the world, his career trajectory had by no means been straightforward. Sir Colin Davis
Sir Colin Davis
Foto: Neumeister
For he had started out as a clarinettist – a somewhat unusual beginning for a future conductor. His interpretative style was characterized less by spectacular effects, massed sounds or heady climaxes than by a sense of subtle coordination, a love of detail and by a mutual act of listening to and with his ensembles and soloists. This was the case during his fifteen years as Music Director of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, just as it was in the years that he spent as Chief Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra (1995–2007), where he was able to expand and deepen his large repertoire that ranged from Mozart via Berlioz to Tippett. In Germany he was highly regarded, primarily for his work as the Chief Conductor of the Chorus and Symphony Orchestra of Bavarian Radio from 1983 to 1992 and as Honorary Conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden (from 1990 onwards). He remained thereafter a welcome guest in Munich, also at the Bavarian State Opera. And in both Dresden and London he was esteemed too as a teacher of the next generation of musicians. The above-mentioned composers to whose music he was particularly committed were also to be found on a regular basis in his Munich programmes. With his recordings of Mendelssohn’s symphonies and in particular of Reger’s Hiller Variations and Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex, all on the Orfeo label, Sir Colin Davis offered emphatic proof of his great affinity for the (neo )classical style. The great composers of music history have built on each other’s achievements, adapting formal aspects and elements of one work in the context of another, and thereby engaging in a continual act of renewal – but few conductors have let us hear all this as clearly as Sir Colin Davis.