Obituary: Sir Colin Davis (1927–2013)

David Colbeck

I followed Sir Colin's career from the time he first conducted at Glyndebourne and rose to prominence.


As well as becoming a world class conductor -to me he was/is the best- he was a wonderful human being, which I think is even more important. His recordings live on, together with he immense pleasure he gave to many millions of music lovers.

What a modest and delightful person he was! As a writer I once wrote to him to ofer to write his biography [being a writer myself]. In typical 'Colin' manner he did not think he merited a book devoted to him!!!


Raphael Haghuber

I feel very sad about the death of Sir Colin Davis, a musician who had a great influence on my musical development. At the age of 15, I was taken to the Philharmonie in Munich to hear him conduct Mahler's 8th Symphony with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra and Chorus. It was nothing but a deeply moving experience. Since that moment, I collected every record of Sir Colin. Every time he came back to Munich, I tried to watch his concerts. The last occasion was even in London: The Verdi Requiem with the LSO.


I may feel sad about his death, but on the other hand I am so full of gratitude for all the music he brought into my life. He made me discover Mahler, Sibelius, Vaughan Williams, Elgar and Berlioz, for example.


Dear Sir Colin, may the angels guide you on your way. All the best wishes to the family and the LSO.


Michel Merlin

The name "Colin Davis" will remain in my memory associated with Mozart, as a stamp of fidelity to the score, to the composer, and above all to the music and its spirit, with high precision, delicacy, moderation, sensitivity: true Mozart, no emotion added - or removed.


David Robb

Like so many others, I was terribly sorry to hear of Sir Colin Davis's death. He was (is) one of my very favourite conductors. I first saw him in, I think, 1970 when he conducted Elgar 1 in Carnegie Hall -- a great night for the Brits! I was also fortunate enough to hear him conduct a couple of times in Covent Garden. In recent decades, however, I've been listening to him through loudspeakers only, and while I acknowledge his particular distinction in the composers listed in your account, I also particularly value his Beethoven symphonies and his Mahler 8 (not a fashionable account, I admit). Oh yes, and Peter Grimes. And Haydn . . .


lesley garner

Sir Colin will always be associated with some of the best musical memories of my life, especially the unforgettable performances of Les Troyens when I was lucky enough to be singing in the London Symphony Chorus. I will also never forget interviewing him in the kitchen of his Highbury house twice, once when he left the room and I realised I was sharing the room with a pet snake called Sam, and the second time when there was a scrabble of footsteps across the floor and we were joined by his pet iguana.I asked if the iguana was likely to sit on my lap and Sir Colin said, "No, but he does like sitting on peoples' heads." He always illuminated the work he was conducting with sensitivity, insight and a gentle humour. I feel very fortunate to have been a very small part of his musical forces.


Alessandro Valtulini

Sir Colin Davies has been one of the best interpreter of Mozart Haydn and Berlioz.


My dream was also to see him a day to conduct my Symphonic Works.


Condolences to his Family and all the LSO.


with great respect


Harold Shupak

May I wish Sir Colin's children and his family my sincere condolences on his death. Although I never knew him personally, as a concert and opera goer for over 50 years, he enriched my life in such a marvellous way with the many performances of his which I attended. From his LSO Proms performances in 1963 to his concert performance with the LSO of Der Freischutz, almost a year ago, his humanity, humour, intellectual vigour and intensity shone through, but always in the service of the music he was conducting. Although my memories of him are primarily of when he was conducting the LSO, I well remember his performances at Sadler's Wells, the Royal Opera House and with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the English Chamber Orchestra. And also what a pleasant surprise it was one Sunday afternoon in Amsterdam about 30 years ago to go to the Concertgebouw and to find him conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra in a scintillating performance of the Mozart Coronation Pia

no Concerto, accompanying the late Clifford Curzon. But my abiding memories of him will be of his LSO performances, be they of Mozart, Berlioz, Tippett, Sibelius, Haydn or Dvorak, or of the works of many other composers. Music lovers throughout the world are greatly indebted to him.


Denis Forest

How deeply moving has been his recent Berlioz Requiem with the LSO at saint Paul (published by LSO Live). Il appears now as a wonderful crowning achievement for a long and distinguished career. My most sincere condolences for all who loved him and those who had the privilege to work with him.


Roy Haines

Such sad news.

I am writing this after listening to his 1969 recording of Berlioz Symphonie funebre et triomphale. If I might re-write the words from The Trojans Chant National - `Gloire a Didon` -- Glory Doyen - our beloved Maestro. His countenance, grace and great spirit. Here by the favour of the Gods. Here by the love of his happy audiences.



Sir Colin was without a doubt one of the greatest conductors the world has seen in the last hundred years. His musical insights were priceless. Through his recordings he has left a timeless legacy.

I first saw Sir Colin conduct as a youngster. My father took me to a concert. It was the first concert I had ever been to. The memory of that concert made an indelible mark on my memory. I even remember the programme as if it was yesterday.

Thank you, Sir Colin, for giving me the love of music and giving the the world such a vast number of musical treasures.

To your family, my condolences, but rejoice in having such a great man as a father.


Raphael Gee

I saw Sir Colin conduct on a number of occasions but 2 stick out, both focusing on young musicians. In 1980 I was a sixth former at City of London School and an oboist in the school's First Orchestra. Two of his sons were also in the orchestra, playing violin and viola. For one concert, Sir Colin came to guest conduct the orchestra in the first movement of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante in E Flat for violin, viola and orchestra K364 with his two sons as the soloists. I was not needed for the performance and was able to sit in the audience for it. I am sure it gave him much satisfaction.


The other occasion was in April 2002 when I saw him conduct the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain in the Barbican Hall in Sibelius's Third and Elgar's Second Symphonies, the Elgar performance dedicated to the memory of the Queen Mother who had passed away a few weeks earlier.


I am not a professional musician but there are many who are in the profession who in their younger days gained much experience playing under Sir Colin. The many recordings he made will stand as a fitting legacy and continue to be on the playlists of classical music radio stations worldwide. His passing is a huge loss to musicians and audiences as well as to his family. My condolences to his family.


Annabelle Mark

Deep sadness at the loss of one of the few greats in the world of music and a fellow Old Blue. He first came to my attention as a child when he gave prizes at CH Hertford, condolences are extended to all his family as well, as I studied for my first degree at Middlesex University with his sister Heather who remained for some time as a friend thereafter.

Last but not least as Patron of The Friends of the Musicians Chapel Sir Colin linked again to the entry of my own musician father Gordon Parfitt into their book of remembrance a few years ago. May he find everlasting joy in the chorus of angels to greet him.


Edmund A Crutchfield

To the LSO,

It was with great shock and sadness that we heard of Sir Colin's death on Monday morning. He will be greatly missed, he was an inspiration, a musician of the highest order, in other words a musician's musician. We always admired his work, his performances had the utmost sincerity and warmth communicating his profound humanity.

I sang in the LSO Chorus during the sixties and seventies and was involved in the many centenary recordings of Berlioz's works, what an experience! One of many memories I have: during the final chorus rehearsal before joining the orchestra, Arthur Oldham was rehearsing and Colin Davis came and sat next to me and sang with the basses until the interval. He was so easy to talk to.

Keep up the good work. Best wishes to all.


Dr. Kyriakos Loukakos

Music Critic - President of the Greek Drama and Music Critics' Association

RIP. I will never forget his Athens Megaron Concert Hall concerts, a real lesson of humane and civilized music making, thought provoking but totally unprovocative.

Thank You, Sir Colin, for a lifetime of fine music You revealed to us.


Evgeny Kissin

What a wonderful musician and human being Sir Colin was ... May his soul rest in peace, and blessed be his memory.


Owen Toller

The LSC has been fortunate to sing under many of the world's great conductors, but for me Sir Colin was the most profound of all. His repertoire was vast - Haydn to Macmillan. And no one ever got us to sing, or the LSO to play, better. When I reach the end of my own road I am sure that the single greatest privilege of my life will have been to have worked with Sir Colin for 20 years.

Any has any other top-rank international musician given more to the musical community? Hardly a musical institution in this country (especially those serving younger musicians) did not seem to have active support or patronage from Sir Colin.

Thank you, thank you and for ever thank you.


James Chute

As a singer with the London Symphony Chorus I shall never forget the drive, enthusiasm and great facial expressions Sir Colin employed to exhort us to ever greater efforts. And then of course his love of choral music meant that he would sing along with us to the despair of the recording technicians. Thank you for a wonderful ride Maestro, you will be hugely missed.


mahandra roopchan

It was with great sadness i learned of the death of Sir Colin Davis. He will be greatly missed and my thoughts are with his family and friends. He has left us with a great many memories his live performances and recordings. One of the finest concerts i have attended was with the Dresden Staatakapelle in London with Sir Colin conducting the seventh symphony of Dvorak also many with the LSO. One his finest recordings that gave me many an hour of enjoyment was his and the late pianist Claudio Arrau performance with Boston SO of Tchaikovsky's piano concerto no.1, to me this had and has a great an impact on me as Jacqueline Du Pre's studio recording with the LSO and Sir John Barbirolli's recording of Elgar's cello concerto.


henry russell

It is hard to realise that my friends, my 2 Wives and I

have been coming to see Colin for 54 years and we are so grateful to him and to the L.S.O. for so may

wonderful evenings .


There will be Tributes . Will any outclass the

wonderful Elgar 1 that Vassily Pretenko gave last

year in Colin's absence .


Farewell and God Bless You .


Tonina Dorati

(daughter of Antal Dorati)

I wish to express my feeling of deep sadness at the passing of Sir Colin.


Esther & Harald Oberbeck

Sir Colin did not know us but, like millions of people, we were touched by his conducting of the LSO, his generosity of spirit and great talent. For this reason, we want to express our condolences to his family. His legacy will remain as testimony to his greatness.


Bob Goldsmith

Sir Colin gave me my earliest memory of classical music, with his recording of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony with the RPO. This (then) little boy was so thrilled by the rhythmic drive and dynamism of the performance, demanding to hear Beethoven's music in concert. That old LP is still on my shelf.


Sir Colin then guided me through almost 50 years of musical discovery, introducing me to the wonders of Stravinsky, Berlioz, Sibelius and Tippett, and to so many operas - Berg's Lulu, Fidelio, Peter Grimes - a constant presence on the podium throughout my life.


Most of all I will cherish the humanity of his music making, as epitomised in his Mozart operas - that wonderful recording of Figaro - and his generous and genial love of music and young musicians. Thank you Sir Colin.


Carole Elphick

My memories of Sir Colin go back to those hard work years of his in the mid 1950's when he was free-lancing in and around London after leaving college. My father was the Librarian of the Dulwich Symphony Orchestra (not sure what its proper title was in those days or how it relates to the present day one) - one of many such London Borough enterprises. The young Colin Davis was engaged to conduct and after only one rehearsal my father insisted on taking me along to listen to rehearsals - I think without my mother's approval. I remember a Grieg Piano concerto and several Haydn Symphonies but most of all I remember learning the craft and the slog of rehearsing and what it means to work at getting to the heart of a composer's score. I also remember him passing me a biscuit during the breaks and being interested in my piano and composition lessons!


Later in life I sang with him several times - mainly Beethoven and Berlioz including an overwhelming Berlioz Requiem which in the acoustics of St Paul's Cathedral with its long echo was an almost impossible task. His clarity, his wit, his persistence and his love of the music got us all through.


Nowadays I am thrilled to be part of the Crouch End Festival Chorus of which he was a Patron. The wheel had gone full circle.


RIP Maestro. Thank you for the lessons and the inspiration. And thank you for the biscuits!


Jose Cura

Not only a great Maestro, but an example of devotion to human kind. Maestro, fate is such that the morning of the same day you died, a friend sent me a message saying that he was listening to our recording of Samson, inspiring himself for a show he was preparing. Few hours after, I came to know you left us. We will miss you, dear Colin: may the angels follow your baton with the same passion we did!


Daniele Quilleri

Casting Consultant

Dear Colin

18 years of operas together - 18 years of good and happy memories! It has been so much fun: planning, plotting and gossiping about it all. Life will never be the same without you, but it is great to think about you with no regrets knowing that I have made the most of my lucky time with you at the LSO.

My fondest thoughts at this sad and difficult time go to your lovely daughters and sons. I like to think of you finally reunited with your beloved Shamsi and I hope that the whiskey is nice up there!

Thank you for having been such an important figure in my life.


Mika Väkeväinen, Finland

Pour Condoleancé


To the memory of the friend of Sibelius music.



"When I come to the end of the road

And the sun has set for me

I want to rites in a gloom-filled room

Why cry for a soul set free?


Miss me a little-but not too long

And not with your head bowed low

Remember the love that we once shared

Miss me-but let me go


For this is a journey that we all must take

And each must go alone.

It's all part of the Master's plan

A step on the road to home


When you are lonely and sick of heart

Go to the friends we know

And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds

Miss me but let me go."


Allen Williams

Farewell to a man who, unknowingly, did much to foster my love of music, and, I am sure, that of countless others. ASD537 - I remember the number - (Harold in Italy) was one of the first LPs I borrowed from Croydon Library nearly 50 years ago and it did much to foster my enthusiasm for orchestral music and of the recorded work of Sir Colin. Never a dud performance for half a century; always vital and alive. Thank you so much.


Yao Yi Tian

I'm sad to hear we loss a excellent conductor. I love the CDs he recorded, especially those piano concertos cooperated with Claudio Arrau.

God bless.


Jacqueline Gutierrez

I am extremely sad by the passing of Sir Colin Davis.

I want to send my deepest condolences to his family and the LSO.

I love his recordings of Berlioz, Sibelius and Mozart.

The World of music lost a true extraordinary man, a true gentleman and a wonderful orchestra conductor.

Rest in Peace, Maestro Davis. Thank you for all the wonderful things that you did for music, we will never forget you.


George Shirley

I was deeply saddened at the news of Sir Colin's decease. It was my great pleasure to make my debut at The Royal Opera, Covent Garden under his sterling leadership, and to perform with him in concerts with the the BBC and New Philharmonia Orchestras. The opportunity to record Mozart's Idomeneo with Sir Colin was and shall remain a treasured memory. I shall miss his presence this side the ground.



Since listening to classical music, the record command on the master has been a favorite for me.Masters all the way!


Dennis Koga

Sir Colin Davis has been one of the truest champions of classical music for my entire life. I will not be able to think of Berlioz, the Proms, Sibelius, Elgar, Mozart, Verdi and countless other music memories without recalling his easy smile, his commitment to the music, and his love of sharing his craft with audiences. I grieve for his passing and send my deepest condolences to his family, but I hope they will be comforted by the knowledge that his music making and spirit will live on in the hearts and minds of people around the world and for generations to come.


John Petley-Jones

In terms of his peerless work with LSO and BBC Symphony Orchestra, my memories of Sir Colin go back to the terrific Proms season of 1968 by which time his authority had been truly established. Subsequently, his mentoring of youthful orchestras and individuals has been a joy to behold. And what a wonderful Indian Summer with the LSO at the Barbican, happily immortalised in valuable recordings of Berlioz and Sibelius etc., to name but a few !


Our thoughts of Sir Colin and his wonderful work for the Royal Opera will "fly on wings of gold" as we listen to "Va, pensiero" this evening at Covent Garden. His stirring Les Troyens and Peter Grimes with Jon Vickers stand out, of course, and I particularly valued both the charm and menace he brought to Hansel and Gretel just a few years ago.


He will be much missed but has left an indelible mark of quality to be cherished by music lovers for all time.


Andre Catafago

I shall miss your supreme art of conducting, be it Mozart or Berlioz or Sibelius. May you rest in peace among the angels in Paradise!


Andrew Wilde

Sincere condolences to Sir Colin's family. I will always treasure the recordings, especially Sibelius with Boston Symphony, but also the great accompaniment role to, eg, Emil Gilels in the Grieg Concert (Proms 1979) and others. He will be sadly missed.


Takeshi Ito

I was saddened to learn of the passing of Sir Colin Davis. I was lucky enough to hear him and the LSO in 2008 at the Barbican in a programme of Schubert and Bruckner which was excellent. A little while after that(on another flight somewhere), I happened to chance on the CD of the Sibelius symphonies 1 & 4. I'm very grateful that I had the chance to listen to such an excellent musician. Thank you and may you rest in peace.


Harry G

Rest in peace Sir Collin, much deserved and earned.


Robert Pullen

Sir Colin had that wonderful gift of finding the right 'direction' in the music - the tempi, the orchestral balances, the pulse and all the little undercurrents of energy in a piece. As members of the audience, we always left his performances feeling we had been brought into touch with something deeper and richer. As I think of him now, the trio from his sublime 1974 recording of Cosi fan tutte - 'Soave sia il vento - sung by Caballe, Baker and Van Allan is drifting across my mind... an inspirational sound memory among so many that he conjured up for us in countless concert evenings and opera nights, and in his recordings. He was a true gentleman, a man of whom this country should be very proud.