Sir Colin Davis, one of Britain’s greatest conductors and the inaugural music mentor in the Rolex Arts Initiative, has died at the age of 85.
The internationally renowned Sir Colin, who had a distinguished career spanning over half a century and was the London Symphony Orchestra’s longest-serving principal conductor, received high tributes from across the world of classical music. Britain’s Daily Telegraph hailed him as “one of the grand and cerebral orchestral conductors of the English tradition”, while New Statesman magazine described him as “a conductor without compare”. The New York Times said he was a “magisterial conductor”.
His protégé in the Rolex Arts Initiative in 2002-2003, Spanish conductor Josep Caballé-Domenech, said of Sir Colin: “The musical world has lost one of its best legends. However I will keep in my memory the precious time we spent together, his genuine British humour. I will particularly remember all that I have learned from him, which has an incalculable value. All the scores we discussed, all the conversations we had and the times I watched him conducting great orchestras remain present – more and more – in my daily activity.”
In 2011, Caballé-Domenech’s was appointed music director of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic Orchestra, in the U.S., and, in January this year, the Staatskapelle Halle in Germany announced that Caballé-Domenech is to become its new music director. The two conducting positions will allow the Spanish maestro to conduct on both sides of the Atlantic for two institutions that, he points out, “share the same artistic values”.
Artistic values and the wider cultural world were key elements of Caballé-Domenech’s mentoring year with Sir Colin, who firmly believed that immersion in literature and the other arts is essential for any great musician – along with a deep passion for music itself. Sir Colin’s passion and humanity were emphasized in many of the newspaper obituaries, particularly that by The Financial Times’ Andrew Clark, who described him as “the firebrand [who] turned into a student of life”.
Rebecca Irvin, head of philanthropy at Rolex, said: “We were very moved, over a decade ago, by Sir Colin’s generosity in signing up for the first cycle of an unproved programme, the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. He and the four other inaugural mentors, William Forsythe, Toni Morrison, Álvaro Siza and Robert Wilson, enabled Rolex to establish, from its launch, a philanthropic programme designed to help young talents of high promise. Through the breadth of his cultural knowledge and his greatness of spirit, Sir Colin set a remarkable standard for the mentoring programme. Like Josep, we will never forget him.”
Published on 17 April 2013
Pictured from left: Robert Wilson; William Forsythe; the late Patrick Heiniger, former Rolex CEO; Toni Morrison; Sir Colin Davis; and Álvaro Siza. The group met in Geneva at the end of the inaugural cycle of the Rolex Arts Initiative.