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Dresden stops the clock for Sir Colin, Munich mourns

The Dresden Staatskapelle were on tour in the US when news broke of the death of Sir Colin Davis. The orchestra immediately dedicated its Carnegie Hall concerts to his memory and issued an affectionate statement in English here.

Chief conductor Christian Thielemann, who observed a minute’s silence before his concert in Washington, D.C. said:  ‘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.’

Sir Colin  Davis conducting Beethoven

In Munich, where Sir Colin was music director for nine years, Bavarian Radio changed its schedules to incorporate tributes and recordings, under the title A Conductor and a Gentlemen. Read them here.


The fulsomeness of these tributes contrasts sharply with Covent Garden’s failure to observe any commemoration of its longest-serving music director on the night after he died, even though its past chief executive, Lord Hall, was in the audience and available to say a few words. It was a poor show.

UPDATE: At the London Symphony Orchestra’s first performance after his death, proper tributes were paid. Julia Savage of Bachtrack reports:

Last night there was a very fitting tribute to Sir Colin at the LSO Turn of the Screw performance at the Barbican. The excellent tributes from Lennox Mackenzie and Kathryn McDowell spoke of his love of music, his dedication to the younger generation of artists, and to his genuine concern for the wellbeing of his musicians–the LSO had lost the head of its family, they said. The performance was dedicated to Sir Colin, and a minute’s silence was held before the audience applauded.

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  1. Michael Haslam says:
  2. Andrew Hyde says:

    That’s hardly fulsome – why the backhander? It seems entirely genuine and proportionate.

  3. I interpreted the word “fulsome” in the complimentary rather than derogatory sense. Context is everything, and through context it was clear that Norman was contrasting the plethora of tributes apropos the dearth of such remarks from the Royal Opera House Covent Garden.

    Tony Pappano eventually did make a statement, and the production of Die Zauberflote has been dedicated to the memory of Sir Colin. Humble or not, British reserve or no British reserve, the Royal Opera House made a Gaffe, and the Dresden Stadtskappelle have not.

  4. Samantha says:

    Thielemann observed a minute of silence with the orchestra before the start of rehearsal last night at the Music Center at Strathmore, just outside Washington DC.

    • Don Ciccio says:

      Perhaps; but there was no minute of silence before the concert itself. I was in attendance.

  5. Fabio Fabrici says:

    Mr. Lebrecht, if we treat everybody equally, and Vienna and Karajan are in the spotlight for Nazi sins, shouldn’t then an orchestra like the Staatskapelle Dresden, which showed the most despicable behavior in 1933 when Fritz Busch was driven out the Dresden opera by Nazi mobs – with the orchestra full of Nazis itself sitting there unmoved – and out of the country altogether, also be put under investigation?
    Guiseppe Sinopoli himself asked for forgiveness, but the orchestra itself, what have they done?

    • In fact, Dresden has done more, in a much shorter span of time — you will recall that they were in the Soviet bloc for 45 years — than Vienna and many other organizations:

      Much remains to be done, particularly in the wake of the tragic death of its visionary intendant Ulrike Hessler at just 57 less than a year ago. But the assumptions above about Dresden vis-à-vis Vienna a) are nonsensical and b) have absolutely nothing to do with Sir Colin and his death.

    • Surely it depends on whether the orchestra is showing similar tendencies now? Comments in this column and elsewhere suggest that the VPO hasn’t changed much.

      I don’t know about the Dresden Staatskapelle but its tribute to Sir Colin Davis deserves credit.

  6. Michael Antrobus - Oslo/Norway. says:

    How many other European music organisations who have, perhaps, a chequered history going to be vilified on “Slipped Disc” by retrospection? We are, now, in 2013 and should move on Fabio Fabici among others.
    SKDresden showed their worth in their tribute to Sir Colin who, incidently, was an inspiration to me, a “wannabe” conductor, who is 70 years young today and still working, enjoying listening to today’s great ViennaPO, SKDresden, BerlinPO, etc.,etc.

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