Sir Colin Davis: ‘You are of no account whatsoever’
This interview with legendary English conductor Sir Colin Davis was “conducted” (teehee!) by Tom Service and published last month in The Guardian. For the full story, follow the link at the end of this post. Enjoy the brilliance!
Colin Davis doesn’t want to be a guru. But that’s what the 83-year-old conductor has become to the musicians who play for him, the audiences who hear his concerts and anyone who meets him. Sitting in his north London home, surrounded by the accoutrements of a life at the heart of classical music – busts of Berlioz and Beethoven, a letter by Sibelius, a slew of scores on his table – Davis tells me he has spent a lifetime fighting a battle. Not against orchestras, managers, or musicians, but against his ego. “One’s ego becomes less and less interesting as you get older, to oneself and to everyone else. I have been around it too long.
“The less ego you have, the more influence you have as a conductor. And the result is that you can concentrate on the only things that really matter: the music and the people who are playing it. You are of no account whatever. But if you can help people to feel free to play as well as they can, that’s as good as it gets.”
And Davis’s music-making is as mesmerising as it has ever been. The last time I saw him with the London Symphony Orchestra, where he was chief conductor for 11 years, he achieved a miraculous communication between the fluid gestures of his baton (no other conductor has the ability to make it seem like a fully expressive limb), his musicians, and the music. It’s a symbiosis only a handful of conductors ever manage. Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony was a quicksilver dance of rhythmic energy; Elgar’s Violin Concerto was even better, a single melancholic song that lasted nearly an hour but passed as a fleeting, dreamy vision. Not that Davis takes any credit. “We had a wonderful soloist, Nikolaj Znaider. He plays so well, he doesn’t have to think about any of the technical difficulties, so he can just focus on the shapes, the expression. In any case, everybody loves that piece. And the Scottish Symphony …” He laughs, as if the popularity of the pieces on the programme explains why the concert was such a success.
Link to the full article here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/may/12/sir-colin-davis