RIP Colin Davis, 25 September 1927 – 14 April 2013


I never had the good fortune to see him in a live performance. Also, I have never been a fan of the English composers he did much to champion. However, we have lost one of the outstanding conductors of the past half century.

Here is his recording of the Berlioz Requiem. Something goes wrong with this in the Tuba Mirum – possibly a fault of the sound engineers when all four military bands come in to join an already vast orchestra and choir. Even so, it is the grandest and most moving performance of the work I have heard. No other performance I know comes close to it. I first heard it in in 1976 – indeed, I was carrying a recording of it when I was nearly killed in a road accident. It astonished me then. It still does. The hairs still prick up on the back of my neck when it reaches Te decet hymnus Deus in Sion at 4:15. Nor is it dismissive of the rest if I describe the Offertorium as astonishingly beautiful.

RIP, Colin Davis – our greatest loss of the year so far.

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4 responses to “RIP Colin Davis, 25 September 1927 – 14 April 2013

  1. That is indeed sad. I also never had the chance to hear him live. However, I have a wonderful recording of the Simphonie Fantastique with the LSO. Not such a big fan of Berlioz Requiem though as a composition.

  2. I didn’t know you were a conductor too Dr Gabb!

    In order to feel the beauty written into this work, I think the listener should first appreciate the wonder of the human voice whilst also recognising it’s limitations when competing against mechanical instruments. It seems to me that Berlioz did fully appreciate that and gave them ample opportunity to shine – although, to be honest, I’ve no idea if he was actually ‘into’ choral works.

    He certainly loved to grandstand music, that I do know, and I’ve no objection to it. I love it in fact. Everyone should strive very hard to show off whatever talent they’ve been given – at least from time to time.

    I’m amazed how modern this piece seems. Could have been written yesterday. Magnificent. Awesome. Wonderful. I feel very small now yet strangely cleansed.

    Anyway, I’m off to Duxford now lads (Wednesday). Something of genuine importance is taking place there. A rare and fabulous Vincent Black Lightning is being auctioned. A relic from another age. An age when most Englishmen were proud of themselves and what their dads and granddads had recently achieved on the world stage. Pride too in their own culture and industrial heritage.

    RIP Mr Davies. RIP Mr EJP. And yes, I suppose: RIP Mrs MT.
    (although had she been a he, there’d be no half-baked wake taking place this day)
    RIP all those brave souls that died so that cowards might breed.

  3. My own musical talents are best left under more than one bushel.

  4. I like the funeral march I have on CD it’s tells us much about his mood at
    the time I suspect that he why he wrote it.