Obituary: Sir Colin Davis (1927–2013)


Shuji Yanai

I learned of Maestro's death yesterday.

I am very very sad now.

I went to maestro's concert first in 1988. It was Bavarian RSO Japan tour, then I was moved very much to listen to Berlioz symphony fantastique.

After that, when maestro came to Japan, I went to his concerts. Brahms symphony No.3 with Staatskapelle Dresden, and Sibelius symphony No.2 with LSO are good memories of my musical life.

Thank you, sir colin. May his soul rest in peace.


Sasha Valeri Millwood

I have attended a number of concerts conducted by Sir Colin Davis in the Barbican centre, and have been consistently impressed by the compelling musicality elicited from the orchestra and the rapport with soloists. These, in addition to the imaginative repertoire that he explored, in intriguing juxtapositions (such as Beethoven pianoforte concerti and Nielsen symphonies), have rendered many such concerts truly memorable occasions that unleashed the vast potential of music and orchestra to terrifying effect.


His passing is a great loss to the LSO and the music profession generally; long may the legacy of his work continue to inspire the high standards he and his colleagues attained.


Gillian Ramsden

I first sang under Sir Colin's baton as a humble member of the Royal Opera chorus. in performances of "Midsummer Marriage" and "Fidelio" in the late 1960s. His energy and enthusiasm never overshadowed what the music had to convey, and it was a joy to sing with someone who so freely communicated his own emotional response to the music. Later I worked with him as a soloist in performances of "Pelleas et Melisande", again at ROH, and had first hand experience of his musical generosity and sympathy. A bright and vibrant light has been extinguished.


Michael Nunn

I was very sad to hear of Sir Colin's death and send my deepest sympathy to his family at this sad time.

We have lost one of our greatest conductors and a great gap will be left in our musical life.

Thankfully we can still enjoy his wonderful interpretations through his numerous recordings and this will be some comfort in our loss. We were all fortunate indeed to enjoy his legendary performances for so long, but the LSO will not be quite the same without him.


Henri Musielak

C'est à la mi-août 1967 qu'au cours d'un séjour à Londres, et suite à une invitation de la B.B.C. aux Proms, j'ai eu le privilège d'être admis à la répétition du London Symphony Orchestra dirigé par Sir Colin Davis. Sa façon de conduire l'orchestre, de communiquer aux musiciens ses indications et remarques diverses m'est restée profondément gravée dans la mémoire. Depuis ce temps, à chaque écoute d'une œuvre dirigée par ce chef exceptionnel, je me suis remémoré cette répétition et le moment où, pendant la pause, il est venu spontanément vers moi pour converser. échanger des propos fort agréables.


Brian Hewson

Very sad day for me hearing the loss of Sir Colin. My grandparents were neighbours of his in Islington,indeed he lodged in the same house has them when he was a student at the Royal Academy. I have childhood memories of going past their house and hearing his sons learning to play the violin. My condolences to his children and may he RIP.


Lynn Chapman

I was very sad to hear of the passing of Sir Colin Davis, and send my condolences to his family. I have many happy memories from attending his concerts at the Barbican, especially on the centenary of the Elgar Violin Concerto with Nikolaj Znaider - a wonderful evening experiencing a very special musical partnership. Thank you Sir Colin, and may you rest in peace.



Orchestre de PARIS chorus

Sir Colin Davis , will miss to the musical world , i am a lover of Berlioz and he really put Berlioz at the very top of its art , so long Maestro , every time i will sing Berlioz Requiem , i will think of you , you have been a GREAT MAN.


Laurent Jacob

Sir Colin est l'un des musiciens qui ont rendu ma vie plus belle. Je n'oublierai jamais son mélange unique d'élégance et de flamme. Quand on l'écoutait diriger le charmant Béatrice et Bénédict, on se demandait comment il arrivait à en faire le plus bel opéra du monde. Le LSO vient de perdre une partie de son patrimoine génétique. Flow my tears...


Petro Lapczak

A great loss to the world of classical music. Sir Colin Davis brought great joy, insight and inspiration to many in his musicmaking over the years. In Berlioz, Sibelius, Mozart, Elgar, but also in Haydn, Bruckner, Dvorak, Beethoven and others. The Berlioz works in his hands stand out, Sibelius, Mozart and Haydn too, but also the Missa Solemnis, and an electrifying Beethoven 9th with the Dresden Staatskapelle at the Festival Hall in 1987. As always, he was in the service of the composer to provide an honest and compelling interpretation of the music - a dignified, understated and humble servant of it. In his place of rest, may he share the fruits of his labours with the composers he championed. Sincere condolences to his family, the LSO and all whose lives he touched through music. RIP.


Richard J. Browne

I was very much saddened to read of the death of Sir Colin Davis.

I am particularly grateful to him for the opportunity to hear live performances of the Nielsen symphonies, all too rarely programmed, and done superbly here. The accompanying Haydn symphonies and Beethoven piano concertos, with Mitsuko Uchida, were also excellent.

Also memorable are his splendid recordings of Haydn symphonies with the Concertgebouw.

Many thanks, Sir Colin, and RIP.


Michael Browne

I met Sir Colin outside the Philharmonie in Berlin in 1983, as he was 'taking the air' before going inside to conduct the BPO in a programme of Berg and Brahms. Though I was conscious that I was interrupting his 'quiet time', he seemed happy to exchange pleasantries, and so I asked him to please bring his Bavarian RSO to Nottingham and our (then) new Royal Concert Hall. Four years later he and the orchestra gave a beautifully poised Mozart 39 and an incandescent Symphonie Fantastique, the memory of which lives with me still - as will the memory of this great musician and fine man, and the many performances I heard him give over fifty years right up to last year's Berlioz Requiem. Thank you, Sir Colin.



A light has gone out in my life but your wonderful music will live on in the everlasting flame.


Christian Wasselin

Sir Colin a aimé Berlioz, il l'a chanté, sa tâche était accomplie. Comment oublier ce moment passé à ses côtés dans les rues de Vienne, le long des rails du tramway, alors qu’il venait de diriger "Roméo et Juliette" au Musikverein et qu’il me conviait à partager avec lui une bouteille de Ruländer dans le bar de son hôtel pour que nous parlions de Berlioz ?


Platovskikh Iuri, Russia

I know his interpretations (Mozart, Sibelius, Berg, Elgar et al.) and love it very much. Great woe. Thank you, maestro, that you were. RIP.


Antoine TRONCY

Toute l'équipe du Musée Hector-Berlioz à La Côte Saint-André se joint à moi pour exprimer notre profonde peine devant cette diparition.

Colin Davis a marqué et marque toujours de son empreinte l'oeuvre musical de Berlioz.

Nous conserverons à jamais au musée l'une de ses baguette que son ami David Cairns nous avait fait parvenir au lendemain de l'un de ses concert et qu'il avait eu la bonté de nous offrir !

Il rejoint dans la légende berliozienne Weingartner, Colonne et tous ceux qui ont tant fait pour valoriser et faire aimer l'oeuvre du Maître. Qu'il en soit à jamais remercié. Notre seul regrêt est de n'avoir pu l'accueillir dans cette maison où il avait dans de fois désiré se rendre.

"Laquelle des deux puissances peut élever l'homme aux plus sublimes hauteurs, l'amour ou la musique ? [...] L'amour ne peut pas donner une idée de la musique, la musique peut en donner une de l'amour... Pourquoi séparer l'une de l'autre ? Ce sont les deux ailes de l'âme".

Hector Berlioz


Alan Kershaw

Sir Colin's passing leaves a huge hole in my musical life. He was the second conductor I saw conduct live, some 45 years ago, and I attended many of his UK performances from then until illness silenced him. Everything about his music making proclaimed a man of integrity, sincerity, understanding, compassion and deep deep humanity. I rate him as the finest choral conductor I ever saw - but that might appear to overlook his immense accomplishments in opera and orchestral music: always there was something to enjoy, to learn from and to be enhanced by. The hole is Davis-shaped, and by definition cannot therefore be filled. But he will live not only through memories but through the work of the many musicians he worked with, including the many younger ones he encouraged and brought on. Farewell Sir Colin, fine musician and great human being. Even now, we don't know how much we will miss you.


Stephen Pearson

Condolences to Sir Colin's Family, the LSO and other friends. Gratitude for countless performances of life enriching music from this great man including Janacek's Glagolitic Mass from about 2000 which shook the earth...well at least The Barbican Centre. I hope music making like this is part of eternity...or it will be very dull.


Anne Toovey

I was devastated to hear on Sunday night that we had lost the irreplaceable Sir Colin Davies. Still have his recording of the Trojans on vinyl - as well as CD. was lucky enough to hear him conduct it live too. Like so many I got to know and love Berlioz thanks to him. He was a terrific Music Director of the ROH and very wide ranging; I recall some memorable Ring cycles and a great Tristan. And lovely that he had a glorious Indian summer; the older he got the better the music. Such a great man. Condolences to all at the LSO as wellas to his family.


Tom O'Sullivan

It is with a heavy heart that I write to say how sad I am to learn of the passing of Sir Colin Davis. He ranks amongst the great conductors and his recordings of Mozart and Beethoven will always be with me. When he smiled and the musicians around him responded was very special. All at the L.S.O. are also in my thoughts as you must feel deeply the loss of such a wonderful friend and colleague.


Tom O'Sullivan

It is with deep saddness that I learned of the death of Sir Colin Davis. He ranks in my view amongst the great conductors. His Mozart and Beethoven recordings will be with me always. When he smiled while conducting and the orchestra responded was very special.

The members of the LSO are also in my thoughts as you must feel deeply the loss of such a wonderful friend and colleague.


Philip Parker

Warm memories of Sir Colin on an LSO tour to Moscow in December 1979 and of meeting him after the final concert of that tour. May he rest in peace.


Paolo Francesco Steri

Credo che Davis fosse stato il più grande direttore d'orchestra d'ogni tempo, la sua scomparsa priva l'umanità di uno dei suoi fari più luminosi. Grazie al raffinato direttore inglese, dai modi gentili e misurati ho conosciuto grandi emozioni.

Addio maestro


Oktawia Petronella

Deepest sympathies for this inspirational conductor. Condolences to his family and the LSO at this time.


Jackie millard

I will always remember the day Sir Colin came to be a guest conducter for our youth orchestra in Harrow, Middx, in the late 1970s. I was the leader of the orchestra at the time and at the end of the concert he gave me the bouquet of flowers he had been presented with! As you can imagine they were kept for a very long time! He was a great inspiration to many young musicians. Many condolences to his family at this sad time.



Your music and charisma will be so greatly missed-a lifetime of dedicated teaching and performance-the Royal Academy,royal Albert Hall, Royal Opera House, Barbican Concert Hall -will not be the same again. Such a sad week -I will raise a glass to your immortal memory. God Bless You- Sir Colin Rex Davis.


Adrian and Catharine Edwards

He's been part of our lives for so long. Integrity shone through his music making and what a wealth of music he conducted. I first saw him conduct a concert performance of The Trojans at Carthage at Guidhall Cambridge on May 10 1964. Veasey was Dido, Remedios Aeneas and a friend, Richard Nunns. later to take the role of the Count in Figaro, directed by my wife, Catharine Robinson, was the Ghost of Hector, The Chelsea Opera Group sang their hearts out for him and for Berlioz.

May he rest in peace


Ian Arnott

I only saw him once -at the Proms in 2011 with the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchestr and it was touching to see the rapport he had with those young people


Ray Gynne

I first heard Sir Colin rehearsing an open air performance of Berlioz's Symphonie Funebre et Triomphale in Regents Park in the late 50's. From that time on I have been a great admirer of him and his conducting. He will be sadly missed by all of us who enjoyed his many concert performances, particularly of Berlioz. RIP Sir Colin


Benjamin Ivry

I wanted to express my sympathies on the sad news -- my thoughts are with the orchestra at this difficult time


Geoffrey Eade

Thank you for so much wonderful music since (for me) Romeo and Juliet with the COG in 1960-61.


Condolences to family and to the LSO.


Eileen Carroll

We shall miss him, especially at the Proms.

We loved seeing him working and conducting youth orchestras.

Am glad we have so many recordings to help keep his memory alive.


Mrs Annie Oldham

I want to express my extreme sadness at the news of

the disparition of Sir Colin Davis and to send a message of condolence to his family who already had a terrible blow with the death of Shamsi three years ago . It's a terrible loss for the musical world and even if we all knew he was ill, we wanted to think that he was immortal ...

I express all my sympathy to the orchestra and to the chorus with whom my husband, the late Arthur Oldham, who died ten years ago had very strong links as he was chorus master of this beautiful choir from 1969 to 1977 . I sang myself under Arthur's direction at the Orchestre de Paris Choir as an Alto 2 and we did several memorable concerts with Colin and a superb tour in Denmark and Italy with Berlioz... I send to all of you all my sympathy in this very sad moment.


Stuart Neill, tenor

I was saddened to read of the passing of our dear Maestro Davis.


I was fortunate enough to have collaborated with Maestro on several projects, and will always be grateful to him for all the opportunities he afforded me and for his kindnesses towards me.


While Maestro will be physically greatly missed, his footprint on our musical lives will live on forever.


Kenneth Stern

Colin Davis was a musician of consummate honesty in interpreting composers. Not since Thomas Beecham have Mozart and Berlioz been better served. He will be greatly missed, but remembered through his recordings.


Marie-Christine Keith

He gave us so many evenings of pleasure inspiring great playing from the orchestras. He was a joy to watch - and also to listen to as he sang along with singers during operas in concert!


Mary E Moser & William A Richey

We heard Sir Colin Davis and the LSO in March,2003 in New York doing Berlioz, later in the fall 2003 in London and again in 2009 in London. We will always treasure those performances and the experience of hearing him and the orchestra live.


He will be greatly missed.


Xiao Chunyuan

Goodbye! Maestro! We will miss you!


Tony Sidell

I first became aware of ( Sir ) Colin Davis when he stepped in at the very last moment to conduct the Last Night of the Proms when Sir Malcolm Sergeant was too ill to conduct.

After a splendid concert there was a small queue for autographs and after a while a young man in a raincoat appeared and slipped away - until he was recognised and then very kindly signed for all those waiting. That was in 1965 ( I think ) and I have been delighted to attend many concerts conducted by Sir Colin and feel very privileged to have heard his music.


Alan Shenton

Thank you, Sir Colin.


Two years ago I was talking to my old boss, Stephen Gray, who founded the Chelsea Opera Group with you and David Cairns in the late 50s. I asked him how it was done. Without hesitation he said it succeeded because everybody wanted to work with Colin Davis.


You have been part of my musical life since I started to listen to classical music in 1969. That year all your concerts on a BBC SO tour of Europe were broadcast -- the repertoire was Le Corsaire, Nuits d'ete, Symphonie Fantastique, Britten's Les Illuminations and Beethoven's Eroica. In Vienna you gave them an all-Berlioz programme (it was Berlioz year)! Every concert was a thrill and I shall never forget them.


Much later I had the great privilege of meeting you at Abbey Rd and at the LSO, and observing your marvellous stick technique. Our musical life is suddenly so much emptier this week.


Thank you again and rest in peace.


Eileen Caster

I was privileged to meet Sir Colin at a rehearsal of the LSO at the Barbican . He was very charming and I have followed his great performances ever since. An inspirational conductor, who will be sadly missed.


Ralph Looij

Sir Colin Davis was one of the greatest conductors of the 20th and 21st century. His touch on the music he conducted was always overwhelming..


A great loss...


Timo Koivula

Pour condolance


Selena Lemalu

As a member of the LSC, my favourite memories were the way in which...

...Sir Colin's face would light up in the middle of a concert with the joy of listening to the LSO players around him

...he was able to encapsulate in an image how to capture the mood of the music

...his conducting from a place of stillness and his vision, made performances of works like the Missa Solemnis and the Grande Messe des morts, spiritual

...the musical journeys he led us on yielded so much more because he was so well-loved.

I am grateful for the fantastic opportunities Sir Colin gave us in programming choral music and for what we learned from him. We all hoped that we might sing with him again.

May he rest in peace and may I add my sincere condolences to his family.


James Argles of the greatest, least "maestro"-like conductors it has ever my privilege to witness, and in partnership with the LSO, surely one of the greatest orchestras in the about being blessed!! I particularly remember Sir Colin conducting a performance of Sibelius' 4th Symphony - a work I had long grappled with unsuccessfully - and I left the hall thinking "How on earth did I ever have problems grasping that piece"...his interpretation had laid everything out with a sense of inevitability and clarity, and at the same time with an almost traumatic emotional depth, which for the first time revealed to me what a masterpiece it is. And his reading of the Missa Solemnis at the Barbican some years back, a piece I've known and adored since childhood, and thought I knew well, which left me dumb all over again with awe at the transcendent depths of that monument to the human spirit...But it is perhaps unfair to single out just two performances...and s

Selfish just to think of his effect on me! So may I just say thank you for his legacy, condolences to his family and friends left behind, and thank whichever God you believe in (or not) that he leaves such a wealth of live concert memories and wonderful recordings. "From the heart, may it go to the heart".