Sir Colin Davis: What makes a maestro tick?
Colin Davis changed his style from prickly firebrand to non-confrontational coaxer, and set a template for today’s younger conductors.
8:04PM BST 15 Apr 2013
Great musicians have a bad habit of dying at the same moment as some other, even bigger name who steals their departing thunder. Prokofiev went on the same day as Stalin, Solti in the same week as Diana, Princess of Wales. And now Sir Colin Davis goes, just as every newspaper this side of Pyongyang is captivated by the minutiae of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral arrangements. Lousy timing for a man who was, in most respects, a master of that art.
But Davis’s distinguished life – in the course of which he graduated from a prickly firebrand to a thoughtful, magus-like philosopher-musician – throws into relief two different models of what mastery means within the world of power, control and human chemistry that is conducting.
How does one man (as it almost always is: women conductors are still rare enough to be protected species) dominate a hundred players? As the only person on the platform issuing no sound – beyond odd grunts and moans you didn’t want to hear – how does he sell his vision of the piece to all these strong-willed, sceptical musicians with opinions of their own?
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