Colin Davis Dies: Renowned British Conductor Was 85

Image: Colin Davis Dies: Renowned British Conductor Was 85 2008 photo of Sir Colin Davis in the awards room with his Award for Male of the Year at the Classical Brit Awards, held at the Royal Albert Hall, London.

Tuesday, 16 Apr 2013 10:04 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Colin Davis, one of Britain's most acclaimed conductors, died Sunday. He was 85.

Having conducted his first orchestra in 1959, Davis worked extensively with the London Symphony Orchestra, where he was the longest-serving principal conductor, from 1995 until 2006.

Davis' musical passions reportedly ranged from Mozart to the 20th-century English composer Michael Tippett, reported the New York Times.

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"His musicianship and his humanity have been cherished by musicians and audiences alike," the orchestra said on its website. "He was internationally renowned for his interpretations of Mozart, Sibelius and Berlioz, and music lovers across the world have been inspired by his performances and recordings."

In addition to conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, Davis also led the orchestras of the Royal Opera House and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. During his extensive career, he also mentored young musicians at London's Royal Academy of Music and Guildhall School.

Beyond England, Davis also conducted at the New York Philharmonic from 1998-2003, the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1972, and was Munich's lead conductor at the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1983-1993.

Davis received multiple accolades, including the Royal Philharmonic Society's gold medal in 1995, the Queen's Medal for Music in 2009, and at least eight additional international music awards from other European countries.

"He had a real understanding of great music and performed it with amazing energy, warmth, affection," Lennox Mackenzie, chairman and first violinist with the London orchestra, told Reuters. "He had no ego. He was not interested in self-aggrandizing or having his name in lights. All he cared about was music and all you wanted to do with him was play your best."

The Royal Opera House's Musical Director Antonio Pappano described Davis as "a giant" and his death as a "huge blow."

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Davis was married twice. He had two children with his first wife, April Cantelo, a soprano. Following their divorce, Davis married his family’s Iranian au pair, Ashraf Naini, in 1964. They had five children together.


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