Obituary: Sir Colin Davis (1927–2013)


Messages of condolences received for Sir Colin Davis.

David Dow
Colin Davis bridged a generation of great conductors like no other. His clear and thoughtful style of conducting was a revelation in a time of glam conducting. His recorded legacy is great and will no doubt serve as important well for younger aspiring conductors.

Alexios Savvides
I have been tracing the late Sir Colin's performances both on disc and video for several years; I had the privilege and honour to attend a few of his concerts while studying in England and I am shattered by the sad news of his demise. I have recently written an obituary for him in the Greek musicological journal TaR ( and I would indeed like my message to reach his dear ones, so that I could send it to them in some way

Dr. Jean Beaurang, Belgium
An immense loss for music and humainty. His memory and recordings wiil remain as testament of his magnificent conducting. RIP Sir Colin

A Robert Nelson
Now 84 years old myself, I have a fond memory of first hearing a young Sir Colin many years ago conducting Mozart, and predicting a great career for him. And it did happen! Happily, I heard him conduct more than once in Carnegie Hall - Sibelius, Mozart, Handel. I remember an interview in which he said he was preparing his children to perform the Schubert Quintet for him when he finally had to turn his face to the wall. Perhaps that hope was realized. I offer my condolences to his family and to his orchestra.

Hugh Shear
Sir Colin was the conductor of my first ever concert at the Royal Festival Hall in February 1961and I was privileged to follow his great career from then on. I remember wonderful performances at the Royal Opera House of all the major Mozart operas, Wagner's Ring, Tristan and Mastersingers and, of course, The Trojans and Benvenuto Cellini. I was also lucky enough to attend a great many of his BBCSO & LSO concerts over the years. I regard him as the greatest British born conductor of the post war era, bar none. Concert going in London and other places throughout the musical world is going to be a great deal duller without him. My condolences to his family and 'his' Orchestra

Andrew Mitchell
I followed Sir Colin's career with interest and admiration from his earliest years until his sad departure. He conducted with flair, authority and, especially in his later years, a genuinely warm rapport with his musicians. He could and did conduct anything and his performances of a wide range of music showed remarkable versatility and, right up to his last years, a willingness to tackle major new scores such as James Macmillan's St. John Passion. I met him once many years ago when some pupils of mine were singing in Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms with the English Chamber Choir in the Queen Elizabeth Hall and a young daughter of his was also in the choir. As an observer on this occasion he was just like any parent and totally natural and unassuming. We are lucky to have such a fine recorded legacy of his work over many years. His passing leaves a big gap in English music making and will have saddened his many admirers in the many overseas countries in which his work was well known.

Chris Jarrett
I am afraid his greatness and his exciting and individual way of interpreting music are not as widely understood as they should be - in spite of knighthood and acclaim. I was always a big "fan" but now, after his death it is clear what we have lost and time to spread his music and defend his claim to genius.

Flavia y Gladys
My mother an I had the gift of God of listening this great Orchestra an The Maestro in the complete Brahms Cycle in 1997, at The Barbican, He had the delicacy of permiting me a few words in the rehearsal of de Deutsches Requiem We had heard him for the first time in Buenos Aires too at the Teatro Colon, conducting Beethoven, in 1996, with de Bayerischen Rundfunk Orchestra. We are really very sad of his death. RIP Maestro, you will live forever in our minds an heart

Albert Attie
I have just learned with great sadness of the passing away of dear Sir Colin Davis. I was a teenager at the time he was recording his Berlioz Cycle and marvelled at each release he so splendidly delivered. In front of a galvanized orchestra he looked like an admiral, conducting his fleet to musical triumphs. I shall always cherish his work and his memory.

Charles Aitken
I have never met Sir Colin Davis, however, I have always been in awe of him like some mythical figure, ever since I was introduced to the Sibelius Symphonies and Finlandia through listening to his recording of those works on cassette while I was at school in the 1990s. A great man. RIP Sir Colin

Stuart Jones
The first time I heard Sir Colin conduct was Idomeneo at Sadler's Wells when I was a teenager. I have no count of the times since. Often lauded for his conducting of Mozart, Berlioz and Sibelius, he was wonderful in a wide range of Music up to contemporary composers, through Stravinsky, Tippett and Britten. Recently I have particularly enjoyed performances of Beethoven and Verdi. The key to his genius was a lack of 'ego' and a determination to let the composer speak for themselves. Rare qualities that will be missed by me and many, many others. Goodbye our dear Sir Col, as we used to lovingly call you.

Paul Davies (LSO Friend)
It is now some days since we heard the sad news of Sir Colin's passing - I have seen and heard his music quite regularly over the past 10 years or so; less so (unfortunately) during the preceding 40 years. To me Sir Colin embodied the LSO - a great maestro, a great influence on music and a very human person. My deepest sympathy is extended to all his friends and family - RIP Maestro.

Marc Davidson
Sir Colin Davis was a giant figure in my childhood. His appearance in Daytona Beach in the 60s was of great importance to my father's Florida International Festival and made him a lifelong friend. We always wanted to have him return, though we never could make it happen. And most important, he once asked my sister "How's your beastly brother?" - giving me the nickname I treasure to this day! The world will miss his great talent and musical ability.

Gudrun Astrom
Great soul, great musician - I just opened this page to order a ticket and find myself being too late. Tonight I light a candle for Sir Colin Davis. Ave Verum Corpus.

Kevin O'Sullivan
Thank you for so much lovely music throughout my life, and for such an example of humanity and discipline. It was always inspiring to be with you in the concert hall. I'll never forget. My deep sympathy to your nearest and dearest.

Richard Carter
When I interviewed Sir Colin now 30 years ago, he was the most self-effacing of conductors. That quality spoke volumes in the way he made music. It was not about him, it was about the composer at hand. This any orchestra picked up immediately. He was a true poet of the podium. I cherish the memory of his concerts immensely. I listened today to his outstanding reading of the Eroica with the Staatskapelle Dresden. It not only brought a tear to my eye, but in its last full measure expressed Beethoven's highest ideals. He was a true artist.

Peter Little
Thank you, Sir Colin, for all the pleasure that you have given me over so many years, both in the concert hall or opera and in your many recordings.

In particular I would like to thank you in introducing me to Berlioz and specially to the magical world of “Les Troyens”, both in your ground-breaking recording in 1970 and afterwards in performances at the Royal Opera House. As John Warrack said in his review in “The Gramophone”, “With the work worthily published, performed and now recorded, there is cancelled a debt that has lasted a hundred years”.

Thank you, Sir Colin, may your soul rest in peace – you will not be forgotten.

Gerald McKelvey
Belatedly, please allow me to express my heartfelt sorrow at the passing of a great conductor and musician. I will never forget the wonderful works Sir Colin performed with my hometown band, the New York Philharmonic.

Olav Majoor
My sincere condolences to Sir Colin's family and the LSO. I had the privilige of hearing and seeing Sir Colin conducting the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra three times in marvellous performances of Sibelius, Beethoven and Berlioz which I still cherish. And I am very grateful to him for wonderful recordings with the RCO of Haydn symphonies (London) and the best Symphonie Fantastique recording ever!

Mrs marisa Olavo
I am so sorry about the death of its President Sir Colin Davis. When he was starting with a LSO in 1959 I was born in Brazil and for me is a virtuousness know his talented and very well work and the LSO. Thank you all!

kim vieira
Rest in peace. Your name will be with us forever!

Elaine Rice
I was very sad to hear of the death of Sir Colin Davis. I was a member of the BBC Choral Society and have always remembered his enthusiasm when conducting us. He showed great respect for the amateur singers in the society.

Bruno servaege
God have giving us a message trough his performances. I'm sadden and grateful. My sincere condolences for his familly and countless of musicians having supporting his long career.

Donald Gray
The world will be a poorer place.

Stuart Cawthorn
The world has lost a great conductor and the world's most authorative conductor of Berlioz. He was THE conductor of Berlioz for my generation and will be sadly missed. He gave sterling service to the LSO for over 50 years and how many other conductors have done that? My deepest condolence .

Professor John Morehen (Master, The Worshipful Company of Musicians)
Members of the Worshipful Company of Musicians wish to record their sadness on learning of the passing of their esteemed Honorary Freeman. Sir Colin's musicianship and humanity will live on as an inspiration to his fellow musicians, especially to young musicians, whose cause he particularly espoused.

Karen and Mike Morfey
It was with huge sadness we learnt of Sir Colin's passing. No words from us could possibly sum up his contribution to the musical world, particularly the LSO and the wonderful years during his tenure which saw the introduction of LSO Live and LSO Discovery.

Our condolences to his family and many friends.

Andrea Joy Russel
I was v saddened to hear of the death of Sir Colin. A great loss to music & humanity - a lovely guy. RIP.

Ann Marilyn Ord
A sad loss to the music world. Having sung as a member of the LS Chorus with Sir Colin conducting concerts and recordings, I will have happy memories, thanks.

Bertrand Balmitgere
Sincères condoléances ! Colin Davis est enfin auprès de son épouse tant aimée. Quel meilleure place pour passer l'éternité ? Plutot que de pleurer sa disparition, souvenons nous de son art, de sa classe légendaire et de son charisme. Le meilleur hommage que nous pouvons rendre au plus grand chef anglais de tous les temps c'est d'écouter son modération son legs discographique. Reposez en paix maestro Davis !

Frank Puddister
I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Sir Colin Davis. I had the privilege of hearing him conduct "Cosi fan Tutte" at the Royal Opera House in July 2007 while I was in London. I have had many wonderful musical experiences through his recordings especially those of Sibelius, Mozart and Tchaikovsky. Let us be grateful for the gift that Sir Colin was and will continue to be to music lovers around the world. May God grant him eternal peace and light.

Mauricio & Nelida
From a brazilian fan:
My wife and I had a wonderful opportunity to enjoy his conducting the LSO on a great performance of Brahms #4, during our stay in 1997, at the Barbican. We herewith join the sadness of all English music lovers to send our deep condolences to LSO musicians as well as to the Davis family. Great to have many of his records. A name to be remembered forever !

John Harvey
I'm deeply saddened by our tremendous loss, but I thank God that my musical life has been so deeply enriched for having experienced his prescence. I was introduced to the music of Berlioz by Sir Colin, and will never forget the impact of witnessing the Grand Messe ddes Morts in St. Pauls in the 1960's. That developed into a "love affair" with the music of Berlioz ever since ! Farewell, Sir Colin; but not forever.

Bryan Paulding
I was deeply saddened by the passing of Sir Colin. I cherish many happy memories of the contribution that Sir Colin has made to my understanding of the true meaning of music. One particular memory which I treasure is attending the Barbican for Sir Michael's music when Sir Colin spotted him in the audience and brought him on to the stage.

Living in Malaysia I treasure my collection of CD and DVD of Sir Colins interpretations of much glorious music. Thank you Sir Colin

Roger head
As a friend of the Lso for the last 15 years I have found Sir Collins leadership of the orchestra inspiring.He has introduced me to joys of Sibelius ,Berlioz and Buckner .It is difficult to contemplate that he will no longer be there on the platform creating such joyous music ,but his spirit will always be there with the LSo. Thoughts with his family at this time.

Victor Treadwell
Sir Colin was almost my exact contemporary and his musical devotion to Berlioz, Mozart, Haydn and Sibelius, in particular, I have shared since the age of 14: I shall always treasure his many recordings of the their music and the memory of his live performances, beginning with Don Giovanni in Coventry and ending with Benvenuto Cellini at the Barbican. He will be much missed by all classical music-lovers. My heart-felt condolences to his family.

doug dorrington
I go back a long time with this wonderful musician,probably the first time was the 1960s when I was 20 years old.Im now 70.the Royal opera house,proms,world premiers,wonderful sensitivity,breathtaking Berlioz and mozart.god bless much missed

Richard La Brecque
Colin Davis was one of my very favorite conductors. I proudly have several of his recordings with the LSO and other top orchestras. His recording of the Sibelius symphonies with the Boston Symphony are unique recordings. I hope that they will be re-released with latest techniques for improving the sound of the original CD discs.

Gary McCall
I was saddened to hear of the passing of Sir Colin Davis. The most memorable live concert I attended was one a few years ago of Sir Colin Davis conducting the LSO orchestra and Choir with a performance of the Messiah. It was beyond description and the electricity in the performance was readily felt by everyone in attendance. He will be sorely missed in the music community. I send my condolences to his family and loved ones. He will be missed but be assured that there is a choir in heaven that is grateful.

Keith Billinghurst
Watching Sir Colin conduct the LSO was always a joy. He and they seemed to be parts of the same living organism. The orchestra 'knew the notes' so time-keeping was never an issue. Consequently he could devote all his time to interpreting the score which - to these amateur ears - he did to perfection. One hopes that Prom 51 will not be cancelled but played in his honour.

Maka Stamateli (Tbilisi, Georgia)
I was very sad to hear of Sir Colin's death. Was not lucky to hear him live, but have his recording on vinyl. A great loss to the world of music. My deepest sympathy to his family and colleagues at this sad time.

Cornelia Hervey
We are so very sorry and send condolences to the LSO and Sir Colin's family

maureen savage
It was with much sadness that I learned of the death of Sir Colin, one of our great choral conductors. I was a member of the LSC for 33 years during which time I had the great privilege of singing on many occasions at piano rehearsals and concerts under his baton. My last memory is of the wonderful European tour with Sir Colin and the European Youth Orchestra. He was a treasure and will be greatly missed. My condolences to his family.

Monya Winzer Gilbert
I was so sad to hear of Sir Colin's death. I played in the Chelsea Opera Group when I was young and a very young who Colin conducted a concert version of Falstaff. We took it to Cambridge and performed the opera. Playing for him was one of the musical highlights of my life. I will never forget his brilliant conducting and his unique personality. One of the great ones has departed this world.

Peter Gieler
So sad to learn of your departure. I have enjoyed your concerts for many decades and vividly recall as a youngster sitting in the front stalls of Sadlers Well admiring the enthusiasm and skill of the maestro.

Margaret McCollum
One of my first wonderful memories of Sir Colin and the LSO,was travelling with them to Russia in Dec. 1979.What an axciting trip! We were treated like royalty!

In the 80's,ther was a glotious summer at ROH, when he conducted "Idomeneo" and "The Rake". My frinds and I went to almost all the performances! I remember walking out of "Werther" the first time I heard it and only giving the revival a try , as Sir Colin was conducting. I could't believe that it was the same opera! Last summer, he gave us the most magnificent performance of Berlioz's Grande Messes des Morts at St.Paul's- so moving-unforgettable .

My heart goes out to his family, friends and colleages,in their sad loss.

Laurence Dale
Sir Colin was simply one of the greatest musicians and greatest of human beings. His humour, wit and knowledge linked to his generosity, humanity and compassion made him unique in this strange world of music-making. Lucky the generations who were touched by this wonderful man. I had written to him recently to express my gratitude for all that he had given me in life, however that doesn't reduce my sadness at his passing.

Andrew Mackie, Chairman, London Philharmonic Choir
It was with great sadness that we learned of Sir Colin's death. Many of our members have happy memories of signing under Sir Colin's direction both here in London and abroad and we were privileged as a choir to have been able to take part in the two performances of Berlioz's Grande Messe des Morts that Sir Colin conducted in St Paul's Cathedral in June last year. He will be sorely missed by the music world.

Our thoughts are with Sir Colin's family and friends at this sad time.

David Marsden
Thank you Maestro for helping me love Sibelius. You will be sorely missed.

Stephen Hague
A truly inspirational man, who will be remembered with deep affection. Thank you, Sir Colin, for the ten years through which I worked with you at ROH, and for all the great music you made throughout your life.

nicola colohan
I am so sorry that the world has lost such a giant in the field of music. I know your loss for such a wonderful man will be as much a personal one as it is a professional one and it will not be one that will ever go away. My thoughts and prayers are with you at this sad time and I know that through your music you will continue to honour and cherish him and his legacy. Sir Colin was a truly wonderful man and compleatly irreplaceable.

Très émue d'apprendre la disparition de Sir Colin Davis. Cet être exceptionnel que j'ai toujours connu est inoubliable et vivra éternellement dans mon cœur.

Avec toute mon affection et mon admiration

Richar Dumughn
Really sad to hear of Sir Colin's death. Remember his performances of Sibelius and Mozart with fondness and particularly a witty performance of the Mozart Piano Concerto no 22 with Emanuel Ax. Music making at its best. His recordings of the Elgar 1st and 2nd Symphonies are among my favourites.

Gordana Elphick
I believe we lost not only a great conductor and a sublime musician in general,but above all one true person who always found a kind word for many of us.However he left an enormous legacy to all of us to remember him by,slava ti great Maestro!

C'est avec beaucoup de chagrin que j'ai appris la disparition de Sir Colin Davis. J'ai eu l'immense chance d'avoir chanté sous sa baguette en tant que choriste lors d'un concert du TE DEUM de Berlioz à Paris, une révélation ! Quel bonheur de l'avoir vu mener choeur et orchestre avec tant de générosité. Grâce à ce concert, j'ai fait la connaissance d'Arthur Oldham, autre monument de la musique qui a changé ma vie et celle de tant d'autres

Mes pensées vont à sa famille

Martin Bligh
I first went to a concert conducted by Colin Davis as a teenager nearly 60 years ago and have been fortunate to hear him numerous times since then. Fairly recently I was privileged to have a brief word with him, remembering those early days in his career.

Colin Davis was a very special human being. He had a passionate belief in the music he loved. He worked tirelessly to share this with orchestras and audiences.

I greatly admired his honesty and candour in what he said about music, music making and the world in general as he viewed it.

His passing is a huge loss to music and humanity.

David Ashby
A Great Light has gone out, but memories are eternal. You have enriched so many lives through music-making.

If I had to remember you by just one performance, it would be the Prom several years ago of the Missa Solemnis. A haunting, angst-ridden interpretation, plumbing depths unrealised by so many others. An unforgettable and profound evening of music.

Thank you for everything you gave us, the public ,the orchestra - and your family.

Garrick Comeaux
My deepest sympathies for the loss of Sir Colin. As a bass singer in the Bavarian Radio Chorus, he taught and inspired us as he conducted. My sincere condolences to the family and to all who knew and loved this great man and musician.

Dvora and Michael Lewis
It was the greatest privilege to know Sir Colin, he enriched our lives with his wonderful music, his generous spirit and warm friendship. Our deepest sympathy and thoughts are with his family and many friends. We miss him so much.

With love

Rudi Affolter
I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Sir Colin Davis. I have been enjoying his music making since I was a 10 year old in 1967. He has always been a towering and inspiring musician for me, and having been studying and working in London since 1979 I have been able to enjoy his music-making on frequent occasions. Particularly with the LSO, who I consider to be the greatest orchestra in the world. I am very thankful that in this modern age of technology when have been left with such a wonderful legacy of recordings, particularly of live recordings, that will last forever. I must also mention his days as Music Director at Covent Garden where he gave some stunning performances of some of the world's greatest opera's. He was, I know, one of the kindest people in the world, particularly helpful to young musicians perhaps making their debut. I am sure there will be some concerts in his memory and might I suggest that if the LSO is about to dedicate a concert to him, rather than the usual respectful 1 minute silence, it might be more appropriate to have a 1 minute standing, cheering ovation. It would seem more fitting, given all the standing ovations he received during his long and distinguished musical career.

Brian Furner
My discovery of my love for classical music as a teenager coincided withe rise to prominence of Sir Colin who became for me the model of a great conductor. Through his concerts and recordings I came to know works by inter alia Mozart, Tippett, Stravinsky, Haydn and of course Berlioz. He was a joy simply to watch with the best beat in the business, amplified by his expressive face. The podia of the world's concert halls will dance less with his passing. Thank you Sir Colin for so much wonderful music over so many years, and for having enabled so many orchestral players to give of their very best.

Reigate & Redhill Choral Society
Sir Colin Davies was conductor and musical director of our Choral Society, in Surrey, for a period from 1956, and later agreed to become our President. We are honoured that he remained President of our Society until his death, a period spanning several decades, although his travels and pressure of work inevitably prevented him from having a more active role with us for much of this time.

We are sorry to learn of his passing, and extend our condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

Matys Mith
Rest in peace, Sir Colin. I have recordings of Smetana, Berlioz and Elgar made by you. They're wonderful, it's so sad to see you passing away....R.I.P

Marian Mead
Colin Davis came to our choral society in Wimbledon at the tender age of 21, and proceeded to bowl us over completely: I sang with the society a few years later and, subsequently with the Chelsea Opera Group, and, despite singing under many and varied conductors since, have never experienced the same exhilaration with anyone else. He will be very sorely missed.

Brian Leftley
I have pondered over the days since Sir Colin's death whether there was any other artist who has, thus far, spanned the whole of my concert and opera going life of over 50 years. The answer is a categorical no! I feel privileged to have heard his performances in the concert halls and opera houses spanning all that time. London has been so lucky to have experienced his work, not least in those wonderful last years with the orchestra he loved and that so clearly loved him. How amazing were his last, great, performances of Berlioz last June in St Paul's Cathedral. Lennox Mackenzie's and Kathryn McDowell's moving tributes before last week's performances of The Turn of the Screw said it all.

stephen e. schloeder
from the very first time i was privileged to hear and see the work of sir colin back in 1974 with the boston symphony orchestra on "evening with symphony" on PBS, i knew this was a man who had something to say. that the musical world has lost such an endearing, confident and formidable presence is absolutely devastating to we music lovers throughout the world. i know sir colin is now conducting that great celestial orchestra on the other side,. putting his own particular stamp on whatever he chooses. you were on my short list of the greatest to ever ascend to the podium and will be missed immeasurably

Kristjan Jarvi
To a sweet and great man. I will cherish the memory of our trip to India and Abu Dhabi with LSO in 2010, both of our first time in India and many wonderful conversations. The world feels a little emptier now, but all the more inspired for the gifts you gave us. Wish love and respect.