Colin Davis recalled
Back in 1967 the forty year old Colin Davis replaced Sir Malcolm Sargent as principal conductor of the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts and also became conductor of BBC Symphony Orchestra. In those days the BCCSO and its conductor performed a significant percentage of the Prom concerts.
The contrast with Sargent was immediately apparent. Sargent would not have introduced us to Berlioz, epically the Te Deum. However coming to the BBC from the LSO where Colin had been abrasive with the orchestra was difficult for him. The first year was spent leaning to relate with musicians and motivating them. The people skills he learned at this stage in his career stayed with him for the rest of his life.
At first Promenaders were somewhat reticent of this new young firebrand. But he soon won an admiring following among this young audience eager to explore music that Sargent would not have countenanced at the Proms.
In those far off days performers and audience met in the same bar during intervals and would drink in the same pub afterwards. Colin became no stranger to the Queens Arms. When Promenaders Mike and Avril Eagleton were married in a church in South East London members of the BBCSO turned up with Colin to play for them, much to the happy couple's surprise. Sadly the rapport between audience and musicians has wained over the intervening years.
Outside the Proms season we would pack the seats at Studio 1 Maida Vale and even attend concerts Colin conducted with other orchestras. I recall one evening in St John's Smith Square. A group of Promenaders were eating the Crypt prior to an English Chamber Orchestra concert. Colin appeared slightly flustered. He had gone home after the rehearsal and had retuned sans baton. A pencil was produced with which he spent the evening conducting the most sublime Mozart concert.
Over the years I watched colin mature. His interpretations grew in depth and breath, but inevitability at the expense of losing some of the youthful enthusiasm that so suited both Mozart and Berlioz. His early recordings for WRC, Oiseau-Lyre and EMI retain some of that youthful exuberance which endeared him to young Promenaders. Many of the early recordings can be downloaded from Beulah
Sir Colin Davis 1927 -2013