Sir Colin Davis

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About Sir Colin Davis

Many conductors mellow as they get older, but with Colin Davis it was more a case of complete transformation. Born in Weybridge, England, in 1927, he studied clarinet and played in the Life Guards. It was conducting, though, that drew him, an ambition he sustained through several frustrating years as a freelance conductor. His break came in 1957 when he was appointed conductor of the BBC Scottish Orchestra. Some critics were enthusiastic, particularly when he conducted Mozart and Berlioz (a lifelong passion), but his impatience and volatility in rehearsal went down badly, and several of his early positions ended acrimoniously. In 1967 he became conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, whose repertoire he extended to include contemporary music, notably that of Tippett. But his attempts to modernize the hugely popular Last Night of the Proms drew more stinging criticism. It was during his tenure at London’s Covent Garden Opera that Davis began a process of Jungian analysis, which he claimed changed his character and attitude. During his periods with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (from 1983) and the London Symphony Orchestra (from 1995) his manner became strikingly warmer and more generous, and old animosities from performers and critics melted away. His later performances and recordings, especially in Berlioz and Sibelius, were, and still are, much praised. He died in London in 2013.

Weybridge, Surrey, England
September 25, 1927
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