Sir Colin Davis

Conductor

Sir Colin Davis

Sir Colin Rex Davis (1927-2013) was a noted British conductor.

He first found wide acclaim when he stood in for an ill Otto Klemperer in a performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera, Don Giovanni, at the Royal Festival Hall in 1959. A year later, he stood in for Thomas Beecham in similar circumstances in Mozart's The Magic Flute at Glyndebourne.

In the 1960s he worked at Sadler's Wells Opera, the London Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. In 1971 he succeeded Georg Solti as principal conductor at the Royal Opera House, where he had given occasional performances before, remaining there until 1986. He became noted for championing the operas of Michael Tippett, giving the premieres of his works The Knot Garden (1970), The Ice Break (1977) and The Mask of Time (1984). In 1977 he became the first English conductor to appear at the Bayreuth Festival (dedicated to the works of Richard Wagner) where he conducted Tannhäuser.

Davis was knighted in 1980. He subsequently worked at the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra before being appointed principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra in 1995. He died aged 85 on 14th April 2013.

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Sibelius: Violin Concerto & Six Humoresques

Sibelius: Violin Concerto & Six Humoresques


Sibelius:

Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47

Six Humoresques, Op. 87 and Op. 89 for violin and orchestra


As a young man, Sibelius dreamed – not just figuratively but literally – of becoming an internationally acclaimed violin virtuoso. Sibelius’s best mature compositions, however, are free of mere showmanship and his Violin Concerto might be the composer’s attempt to reconcile the world of the flashy virtuoso with that of the brooding, Nordic ascetic. Whether this reconciliation occurred or not is a matter of opinion, but the reservations of music critics (including Joseph Joachim) have not prevented the work from becoming one of the most popular violin concertos.

Sibelius may have written only one violin concerto, but he wrote other music for solo violin accompanied by orchestra. In 1917, he composed six Humoresques. They were premiered together on 24 November 1919, with soloist Paul Cherkassky, and Sibelius himself conducting the Helsinki City Orchestra. In all six, the orchestral forces required are relatively small; the middle two call for strings alone. Sibelius claimed that the Humoresques convey ‘the anguish of existence, fitfully lit up by the sun’.

Although noted for his fearless and thrilling performances of music by Paganini for Deutsche Grammophon, Salvatore Accardo, who celebrates his 75th birthday in October 2016, also recorded extensively for Philips in the 1970s and 80s. His repertoire ranged from Baroque music through to 19th and 20th concertos, including the complete music for violin and orchestra by Bruch, and concertos by Brahms and Mendelssohn.

“this set of six miniatures [Humoresques] would probably tempt me to lay out the whole price of the disc by themselves. They are small, compact works of very concentrated content. One could almost call them musical K-rations except that they bring far more satisfaction than K-rations possibly could. At first they may appear to be mere trifles, but do not be deceived. They are virtual case studies in virtuoso violin technique but with some musical substance mixed in. Accardo provides a ravishingly beautiful performance. Like the Concerto, these are sometimes taken more slowly in tempo than normal, but the pulse never falters and new beauties are revealed.” Fanfare, September/October 1980

“I can’t think of many artists who have more successfully conveyed the innocence as well as the magic of the opening bars. […] The slow movement has warmth and its textures a glowing, lambent quality. […] Throughout the work, the brass have exactly the right kind of power and sonority. The finale is played with effortless brilliance by the soloist. […] Accardo is the first to record all six Humoresques as a fill-up to the concerto and he and Sir Colin Davis bring to them a fine sense of atmosphere and rapture. […] A superb record.” Gramophone Magazine, October 1980

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Purcell: Dido and Aeneas

Purcell: Dido and Aeneas

Original 1973 quadraphonic recording by Philips Classics, remastered in 2015


When Henry Purcell wrote his one and only opera Dido and Aeneas in the second half of the seventeenth century, there was no existing opera tradition in England. With a libretto based on Virgil’s Aeneid and its music stylistically close to and derived from the typically English ‘Masque’ form (a festive courtly entertainment involving music, dancing, singing and acting, within an elaborate stage design) Purcell created a monumental baroque opera. Dido and Aeneas is considered by many to be the most important opera to appear between Claudio Monteverdi’s L'incoronazione di Poppea and W.A. Mozart’s later masterpieces. Still today it is widely performed and its most famous aria Henry Purcell ‘When I am lead in earth’ (Dido’s lament) arguably can be counted amongst some of the most famous opera arias ever.

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Peter Racine Fricker: The Vision Of Judgement & Symphony No. 5

Peter Racine Fricker: The Vision Of Judgement & Symphony No. 5


Fricker:

The Vision of Judgement, Op. 29

BBC Broadcast 14 October 1980

Jane Manning (soprano) & Robert Tear (tenor)

Leeds Festival Chorus & Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Charles Groves

Symphony No. 5 for organ & orchestra, Op. 74

BBC Broadcast 5 May 1976. Live from the Festival Hall. First performance

Gillian Weir (organ)

BBC Symphony Orchestra, Colin Davis


Peter Racine Fricker was among the first composers in Britain to be influenced by the music of Béla Bartók, Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky, assimilating aspects of their very different styles into a distinctive musical voice of his own. Unconcerned by the vagaries of musical fashion, he proceeded to build an impressive body of work in his highly expressive, urbane and freely atonal language. His catalogue, which exceeds 160 pieces in total, encompasses all the main genres with the exception of staged opera.

The Vision of Judgement was first performed on 13 October 1958 at Leeds Town Hall as part of the Leeds Centenary Festival. The performance presented here is conducted by Charles Groves, who was familiar with the Frick er style, having taken up the composer’s

First Symphony and performed it in one of his last concerts as conductor of the BBC Northern Orchestra and then introduced it in Bournemouth and on the Continent.

Dedicated ‘to the many fine musicians with whom I have had the pleasure of working so happily in the Royal Festival Hall’, Fricker’s Symphony No.5 was premiered by organist Gillian Weir with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Colin Davis on 5 May 1976 at the RFH in the presence of the composer. It was featured at the Proms on 11th August 1976 with the organist Jennifer Bate and the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra under John Pritchard. Terse and direct, the score offers some grand gestures in its lively outer sections which are offset by eloquent dialogues between its two principal protag onists in the interludial central segment. Considerable tension is generated in the closing pages, which present an unbuttoned, euphoric display of bravura.

“There’s a truly impressive work in here, capable of exciting grand gestures, but most personal in the sensitive elegiac sections – the a cappella ‘Libera me’ is a highlight” BBC Music Magazine, November 2016 ***

Lyrita Itter Broadcast Collection - REAM1124

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Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2

Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2


Rachmaninov:

Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 1

London Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Adrian Boult

Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18

New Symphony Orchestra of London, Sir Colin Davis


Peter Katin (piano)

Pianist Peter Katin died on 19 March 2015 at the age of 84. He was born in London in 1930, and by the time he was twelve he was a student at the Royal Academy of Music. He made his professional debut in Wigmore Hall six years later. Early in his career, he was particularly admired for his performances of works from the Classical era, but he caused a sensation in 1953 when he performed Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3. (One reviewer wrote, ‘The young English pianist was greeted, after this breathtaking display, with the hearty and prolonged applause that we generally confine to established public idols.’) The Rachmaninov recordings reissued here date from 1958 (Concerto No. 1) and 1959 (Concerto No. 2). In addition to Katin’s virtuosity, they feature intelligent conducting from Sir Adrian Boult and Sir Colin Davis, and engineering which is almost as impressive today as it was more than five decades ago.

“[the Piano Concerto No. 2] is all brought off very well and there are many passages of great felicity” Gramophone Magazine, September 1964

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Tippett: A Child of Our Time

Tippett: A Child of Our Time


Jessye Norman (soprano), Dame Janet Baker (mezzo-soprano), Richard Cassilly (tenor) & John Shirley-Quirk (bass)

BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Choral Society & BBC Singers, Sir Colin Davis

“Davis’s reading as a whole packs an enormous dramatic punch, and this is one oratorio that suffers not at all from being brought close to the opera house” Gramophone Magazine

Decca 20C - 4788351

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Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 3, 6 & 7

Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 3, 6 & 7


Sibelius:

Symphony No. 3 in C major, Op. 52

Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 105

Symphony No. 6 in D minor, Op. 104


Decca 20C - 4788349

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Grieg & Schumann: Piano Concertos

Grieg & Schumann: Piano Concertos


Grieg:

Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16

Schumann:

Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54


Sony musicforyou - 88875070982

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Haydn: Symphonies Nos. 92, 93, 97, 98 & 99

Haydn: Symphonies Nos. 92, 93, 97, 98 & 99


Haydn:

Symphony No. 92 in G major 'Oxford'

Symphony No. 93 in D major

Symphony No. 97 in C major

Symphony No. 98 in B flat major

Symphony No. 99 in E flat major


Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

The late Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra present a collection of Haydn’s London Symphonies alongside the spirited Oxford Symphony. Sir Colin Davis was long recognised as a pre-eminent Haydn interpreter. During his Indian summer with the orchestra he recorded both 'The Creation' and 'The Seasons' for LSO Live. The symphonies presented here were recorded in 2011 and make for revelatory listening.

Entering a new chapter after the death of Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, Haydn’s forward-looking late symphonies were conceived on a large scale and exude all the hallmarks of the composer’s protean maturity. Surpassing even his own high standards and received to an enormous success, their expressive strength and inventive mastery of form gave his international reputation a substantial boost: Haydn’s contrapuntal mastery and thematic rigour are laid bare for all to see.

“If anyone complains that the forces used are too large, they should remember that Haydn, like Mozart and Beethoven, liked big orchestras. In any case, the string textures Davis secures are irreproachably crisp and clear, and the rhythms vital. Not to be missed.” Sunday Times, 6th July 2014

“Davis’s tempi may be gentler than in his prime, and the LSO cannot match the lightness of period-instrument orchestras, but there is geniality and gracefulness aplenty.” Financial Times, 2nd August 2014 ****

“An unexpected and wonderful bonus to Colin Davis’s discography…Such affection is immediately established with the beginning of the irrepressible ‘Oxford’ Symphony...This is a release to treasure for great music and magnificent readings…with a conductor who tapped so perceptively and benevolently into this imaginative and indestructible music.” classicalsource.com, July 2014

“The performance is notably warmer and more personal [than his earlier accounts], it glows with affection for this life-enhancing music...[the Adagio of No. 99] unfolds with a sublime serenity that is quite special...Those who love Haydn should hear this set.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2014 ****

“Sir Colin's affinity with and love for this music is palpable as he (very audibly) hums and sings along, and the hard-bitten LSO have clearly caught the bug too, playing with style and sensitivity for their erstwhile chief.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2014

“If I had to choose one word to sum up these performances, it would be poise. Everything is elegant and refined...these performances simply radiate joy: you can almost see Davis's benevolent smile as he conducts Haydn's delightful slow movements, and the Allegro movements burst forth with delight. Even if you already have several recordings of these symphonies, I really can't recommend these new performances highly enough.” James Longstaffe, Presto Classical, 30th June 2014

Presto Disc of the Week

30th June 2014

Presto Discs of 2014

Winner

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LSO Live - LSO0702

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Weber: Clarinet Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 & Quintetto

Weber: Clarinet Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 & Quintetto


Weber:

Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F minor, Op. 73

David Glazer (clarinet)

Württemburg Orchestra

Gran Quintetto for Clarinet & Strings in B flat, Op. 43

Gervase de Peyer (clarinet)

Melos Ensemble

Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in E flat Major, Op. 74

Gervase de Peyer (clarinet)

London Symphony Orchestra, Colin Davis


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Great Scenes from Aida

Great Scenes from Aida

Decca Most Wanted Recitals Vol. 31


Verdi:

Ritorna vincitor! (from Aida)

Birgit Nilsson (Aida)

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, John Pritchard

Fu la sorte dell'armi a' tuoi funesta (from Aida)

Birgit Nilsson (Aida), Grace Hoffman (Amneris)

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, John Pritchard

Qui Radamès verrà!... O patria mia (from Aida)

Birgit Nilsson (Aida), Louis Quilico (Amonasro)

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, John Pritchard

Rivedrai le foreste imbalsamate (from Aida)

Birgit Nilsson (Aida), Louis Quilico (Amonasro), Luigi Ottolini (Radames)

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, John Pritchard

La fatal pietra sovra me si chiuse (from Aida)

Birgit Nilsson (Aida), Luigi Ottolini (Radames)

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, John Pritchard

Wagner:

Wesendonck-Lieder (5)

Birgit Nilsson (soprano)

London Symphony Orchestra, Colin Davis


Decca Most Wanted Recitals - 4808168

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