Saturday, 20 April 2013

Colin Davis

I'm listening to the latter two-thirds of Music Matters which is dedicated to Colin Davis. All praise to Suzy Klein for her authoritative narrative and her drawing out of the personal recollections of the people who had performed under Davis. There is a free download, which I would recommend.

The programme did not shy away from the more unattractive aspects of Davis's character in the first half of his career, when he tended to behave towards orchestras as the stereotypical maestro of films and novels. I saw something of this when I had the opportunity, forty-six years ago now, of sitting in the Albert Hall when Davis had his final rehearsals of The Trojans before that evening's Prom performance with the Chelsea Opera Group. On that occasion, a player of one of the high trumpets queried whether what Davis was asking of him was possible on the instrument. Davis authoritatively contradicted him in a manner which must have made the man feel small. It is clear from today's programme that the Davis who returned from his tenures abroad to take up the principal conductorship of the LSO in 1995 was mellower, somewhat self-deprecating, much more collegiate and someone who would have taken that trumpeter aside quietly instead of putting him down in public. Without compromising his high standards, he had not been afraid to change. Orchestral players had changed, too, of course, as the programme also emphasised but most of those remaining whose feathers he had ruffled in earlier days came to respect and admire him.

I cannot help drawing comparisons with the way the BBC treated another recent death of an octogenarian. Just over an hour in total over Radios 3 and 4 was given to celebrating the life and work of someone who brought joy to millions round the world.

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