The Staatskapelle Dresden mourns the death of its Conductor Laureate, Sir Colin Davis

The musicians of the Staatskapelle Dresden and Principal Conductor Christian Thielemann mourn the passing of Sir Colin Davis. The orchestra received news of the death of its Conductor Laureate directly after performing a concert in the Chicago Symphony Centre, the first of four concerts making up the Staatskapelle’s current US tour.

It was back in 1981 that Sir Colin Davis and the musicians of the Staatskapelle met for the first time to record Mozart’s late symphonies in Dresden’s St. Luke’s Church. Sir Colin had just taken charge at Covent Garden Opera in London when chance took him via Berlin to Dresden, where he was taken aback at the city’s drabness. He stayed in a hotel where most of other guests were Russians, and felt – so he reported some decades later – »very much the foreigner in the GDR. Yet when I heard the Staatskapelle play Mozart I knew from the first few bars that I was at home. I immediately fell in love with their sound. And words were scarcely required during the rehearsals, as we were able to communicate entirely through the music.«

In the following years Sir Colin Davis and the Staatskapelle collaborated on numerous recordings still regarded as unrivalled such as the operas »Der Freischütz«, »The Magic Flute« and »Hänsel und Gretel«, as well as Schubert’s symphonies and works by Berlioz, Sibelius and Elgar.

Sir Colin was the first British musician to conduct the Remembrance Concerts held to commemorate the destruction of Dresden – moving experiences for conductor and orchestra alike. As was the Staatskapelle’s first appearance at the »Proms« in London, an invitation initiated by Davis. Other collaborative ventures included guest tours of Europe, the USA and Japan as well as the Kapelle’s first trip to South America. Altogether Sir Colin conducted the Kapelle on more than 300 occasions.   

Sir Colin was inspired by the Kapelle’s traditional repertoire while at the same time introducing the orchestra to the music of his home country such as Britten’s »War Requiem«, Tippett’s »A Child of Our Time« and major works by Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Walton or MacMillan, all previously unknown to Dresden audiences. 

In 1990 Sir Colin (affectionately called »der Sir« by Kapelle players) became the first and as yet only conductor laureate in the orchestra’s long history.  

To celebrate his 85th birthday Sir Colin and the Kapelle undertook a joint tour in April 2012 through Europe entitled »Sir Colin at 85!«, featuring a programme of works by (who else?) the conductor’s beloved Mozart. No one at the time could have imagined that these would be the last of Sir Colin’s concerts with the Staatskapelle. 

The musicians of the Staatskapelle wish to pay their final respects to their Conductor Laureate. As a sign of gratitude and in remembrance of a close friendship, they are dedicating the two closing concerts of their current tour to take place on 17 and 19 April in New York’s Carnegie Hall to the memory of Sir Colin Davis.

»Sir Colin was a tremendously genial and completely unpretentious man, whose warmth and affection immediately struck all those who met him. A truly rare artistic harmony existed between him and the Staatskapelle. In Sir Colin’s passing the Staatskapelle has not only lost a conductor laureate, but also, and more importantly, a unique friend. We will never forget him.«
Christian Thielemann, Principal Conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden

»New York was hugely important to Sir Colin’s professional life, and so we intend to dedicate our two Carnegie Hall concerts to his memory. After our most recent visit to London we were quite hopeful that Sir Colin would once again be able to ascend the Kapelle rostrum. He had even given thought to a suitable programme for this concert, suggesting Mozart’s »Linz« Symphony. The news that Sir Colin will never again return to Dresden leaves us all devastated and filled with a deep sense of loss.«
Jan Nast, Managing Director of the Staatskapelle Dresden