We use the word legend far too easily but applying it to a great maestro of the stature of Sir Colin Davis is very appropriate.
In the last decade I had the chance to see him conduct his beloved London Symphony Orchestra many times. Every time their sound had a special sheen that somehow only he could conjure. His contribution to the musical life of this country and all over the world through his many tours and recordings is possibly the most important of the post war era. Unlike many of his contemporaries his quiet dignity from the podium was for me his unique characteristic. In the concert hall he radiated calm concentration and gravitas. The attention was not focused on an egomaniac maestro but to a musical family coming together.
Last June’s absolutely spellbinding Berlioz Grande Messe des Morts was an incredibly moving evening of music making. A family friend had died the same day and in my head I dedicated the stellar performance to his memory. I decided not to put into writing how it affected me that evening as it all felt very raw. Almost a year later it is a sad realisation it was also the last time I saw Sir Colin conduct but also a great last memory to have. A man who made music his life, conducting a composer that he single-handedly brought to contemporary focus and championed like no one else. This was the final farewell to his life’s work and a chapter of music history was written. Only last month the recording of those two performances at St Paul’s was issued. I will play my copy in memory of a great evening and a consummate musician that touched all our lives and will continue to inspire us for as long there is recorded music, rest in peace Sir Colin. You will be sorely missed and this Tuesday’s The Turn of the Screw performance will have a special poignancy knowing that you were meant to have conducted it.
PS I will giggle for ever more with Sir Colin’s response to my tweet when he was being interviewed in 2011 by Gareth Davies. Of course I had to ask about knitting 😉 His response is near the 14minute mark.