© Peter Tarasiuk

Remembering Sir Andrew Davis

Sir Andrew Davis, the renowned English conductor, passed away on April 20 following a brief battle with leukemia. He was 80.

Davis served as music director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra from 1975 to 1988, and later as chief conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (2013–2019). From 1989 until 2000, he led the BBC Symphony Orchestra, becoming the longest-serving chief conductor of that ensemble since Adrian Boult. As an opera conductor, Davis led the Glyndebourne Festival and Lyric Opera of Chicago.

For audiences and players alike, Sir Andrew Davis was a beloved figure, known for his humor, charm, and humility, and celebrated as a sensitive manager. “Immediately affable, fun, and feisty” is how one Melbourne Symphony Orchestra musician remembered Davis. Another recalled his “kid in a candy store” love of performing. Music critic Alan Blyth described Davis as “a conductor whose technical skill was enhanced by an inborn enthusiasm for and dedication to the task in hand that he was able to transfer to the forces before him.”

Although Sir Andrew Davis’ repertoire was extensive, I have selected recordings of music by English composers:

Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

The vibrant acoustics of Gloucester Cathedral enhance the spacial and antiphonal magic of Vaughan Williams’ famous work in this 2010 performance with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 5

This concert performance featuring the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra was recorded in 2016. Described by one commentator as the “Symphony of the Celestial City,” this music was composed in 1943 amid the Second World War.

Holst: “The Planets” (Jupiter)

Here is an excerpt from Sir Andrew Davis’ 1986 recording with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.