Born: September 25, 1927 - Weybridge, England
Died: April 14, 2013 - London, England
The eminent English conductor, Colin (Rex) Davis, studied clarinet at the Royal College of Music in London, and played in the band of the Household Cavalry while serving in the army.
Colin Davis began his conducting career with the Kalmar Chamber Orchestra and the Chelsea Opera Group. He was Assistant Conductor with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in 1957, and moved to Sadler’s Wells in 1959 as Principal Conductor and then Musical Director (1961-1965). In 1958 he conducted a performance of Die Entführung aus dem Serail in London.
Colin Davis made his USA debut as a guest conductor with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra Orchestra in December 1960; subsequently had engagements with the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. From 1972 to 1983 he served as principal guest conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In January 1967, he made his Metropolitan Opera debut in New York conducting Peter Grimes.
From 1967 to 1971 Colin Davis was chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London. In 1965 he conducted at the Royal Opera at Covent Garden. He succeeded Georg Solti as its Musical Director in 1971. Among his notable achievements was a production at Covent Garden of the Ring cycle between 1974 and 1976; in 1977 he became the first British conductor to appear at the Bayreuth Festival, conducting Tannhäuser. He conducted the Royal Opera during its tours in South Korea and Japan in 1979, and in the USA in 1984.
In 1983 Colin Davis was appointed chief conductor of the Bayerischer Rundfunk Symphonieorchester in Munich, which he led on a tour of North America in 1986. In 1986 he stepped down as music director at Covent Garden to devote himself fully to his duties in Munich and to pursue far-flung engagements as a guest conductor with major orchestras and opera houses of the world. He was Honorary Conductor of the Dresden Staatskapelle since 1990.
In 1988 Colin Davis was named to an international chair at the Royal Academy of Music. In 1993 he stepped down from his Munich position. In 1995 he became Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. He began his new appointment with the London Symphony Orchestra with concert performances of Berlioz's Romeo and Juliet and Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream. After taking part in the Bruckner Mozart Festival with the London Symphony Orchestra and touring with them in the Canary Islands and Switzerland, Sir Colin conducted Berlioz's The Trojans at La Scala, Milan in April. He then returned to London for Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in May. In 2003 season, Sir Colin will also worked with the Dresden Staatskapelle, New York Philharmonic and Bayerischer Rundfunk Symphonieorchester. Recent engagements included a new production of Strauss' Ariadne with the Bavarian State Opera and a Brahms Festival with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1997. From 1998 he was also Principal Guest Conductor of the New York Philharmonic.
Colin Davis is an authoritative interpreter of such masters as Mozart, Berlioz, Sibelius and Igor Stravinsky. He also championed the cause of his British contemporaries, most notably Sir Michael Tippett.
Sir Colin Davis recorded widely for Philips and BMG and had a continuing programme with them. Recent recordings for BMG are Fidelio and several live concerts from Munich, including Gustav Mahler's Symphony No 8 with the Bayerischer Rundfunk Symphonieorchester. BMG released Lohengrin with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir, and Sibelius' Symphonies Nos. 2 and 6 with the London Symphony Orchestra in the autumn of 1995. Philips recorded B. Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream with the London Symphony Orchestra and released the complete L.v. Beethoven Symphonies with the Dresden Staatskapelle in December 1995.
Sir Colin Davis was awarded international honours by Italy, France, Germany and Finland. He also received many awards in Britain, the most recent being the Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal in 1995. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1965, and was knighted in 1980. From 1949 to 1964 he was married to April Cantelo.