Born in England in 1927, Colin Davis at first studied the clarinet at the Royal College of Music in London. At the same time, he began the art of conducting by forming ensembles with his college friends. Standing in for Otto Klemperer and then Thomas Beecham at last minute made him a name within his favoured Mozart repertoire well served by his flourishing gifts.
His responsibilities on the international stage followed in quick succession. He was principle conductor of the BBC, (from 1967 to 1971), Musical director at Covent Garden, (1971 to 1987), principle conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, (1983 to 1993) then principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, (1995 to 2006). He was the first British conductor to be invited to Bayreuth.
Well-known to the public at large for his interpretations of Berlioz whose complete works he was, with some difficulty, the first to record, Colin Davis has turned his attention to numerous other repertoires. An admirer of Saint-Saëns and Massenet whom he considers underestimated, he has also given first performances of operas by Michael Tippett. Although he has regularly conducted works by Bartók, Stravinsky and Messiaen, he remains critical of the serial school and their works, which, he believes, have difficulty making a mark on their era. Impassioned by orchestral evolution through the ages, Colin Davis, unlike the mainstream of Baroque musicians, demands the restitution of the composer’s original orchestral conception for each of his interpretations.