I didn’t know Colin Davis. I should have, but I didn’t.
I should have known him because he was a great conductor and I could have learned from him. I didn’t because I am, by nature, silly and feckless and never took the obvious step of approaching him for advice. And for the last three days I’ve selfishly kicked myself for not doing it, for not being interested enough in the idea of learning from the wisdom of others to get off my arse and do it.
I’ve also been sad in a way that seems out of proportion for the death of someone I never met. I know many people who knew and worked with him – their reaction has been entirely understandable, and potent enough to make you believe in the apparently contradictory term “much-loved conductor”. But why does it feel as if such a big part of my musical life has been taken away from me? Of course I went to his concerts and listened to his recordings, but the same goes for lots of conductors and instrumentalists.
And then I realised.
I knew the name Colin Davis before I even knew what a conductor was. It was on the LP that, along with three or four others, made up my earliest childhood listening. Highlights from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. I listened to it so often when I was about eight that it has long since gone to the great charity shop up above and been replaced with a pristine, and rather less characterful (i.e. not as scratched and hissy), digital version of the full opera. I’m listening to it now.
That’s how Mozart goes. And, as Davis himself said in one of the interviews below, “Mozart – well, he’s life itself.”
He also said this: “Where are you going to get new ideas from if you don’t read? Music doesn’t feed itself.”
What a sensible man.
There’s a funeral on at the moment. I’m choosing to ignore it and am instead celebrating the life of someone who, in my view at least, represented rather more successfully what humanity is capable of.