Top British conductor Colin Davis dies aged 85

Mon Apr 15, 2013 1:44pm EDT
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By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON (Reuters) - British musician Colin Davis, who led orchestras all over the world but was most closely associated with the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) where he was the longest-serving principal conductor, has died aged 85.

Davis, internationally renowned for his interpretations of Mozart, Sibelius and Berlioz, first conducted the LSO in 1959 and became its principal conductor from 1995 to 2006 after a fiery start to his career when he was known for his tantrums.

Over the years Davis mellowed as he worked with leading British musical institutions including the Royal Opera House and the BBC Symphony Orchestra while mentoring students at London's Royal Academy of Music and Guildhall School.

He also conducted extensively overseas, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1972, as lead conductor of Munich's Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra 1983-1993 and as principal guest conductor of the New York Philharmonic from 1998-2003.

Davis died on Sunday after a short illness, and an LSO statement paid tribute to his "musicianship and his humanity".

Lennox Mackenzie, chairman and first violinist at the LSO where Davis was serving as president at the time of his death, described him as a master conductor who cared deeply about the musicians he led.

"He had a real understanding of great music and performed it with amazing energy, warmth, affection," Mackenzie 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."   Continued...