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Sir Colin Davis: A life on record

Searching the files, we are amazed to see how rarely Sir Colin appeared on the cover of his many recordings. He achieved a total discography of about 320 records, of which 165 now rest with the Universal Music Group. Decca and Philips are issuing a 15-CD memorial box, and have put out the  following tribute: 

colin davis decca


Sir Colin Davis was one of the musical pillars of the Philips label (now part of Decca Classics).

His first ever recording in 1959 was actually for Decca (a Rachmaninov concerto with Peter Katin) and he then made several recordings for  L’Oiseau-Lyre (later a Decca label) including the first of many of his beloved Hector Berlioz.

After signing to Philips exclusively in the mid-1960s he then over more than three decades produced work for the label of the highest quality and range:  the first (and still greatest) Berlioz cycle , pioneering Tippett, superb Haydn and Mozart, plus top-ranking Sibelius, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Dvorak and Britten, and much else. His many recording orchestras included the English Chamber, London Symphony, BBC Symphony, Royal Opera House, Royal Concertgebouw, Boston Symphony, Bavarian Radio and Dresden Staatskapelle, and also the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics. His great Philips collaborators on disc include Stephen Kovacevich,  Kiri Te Kanawa, Jon Vickers,  Jose Carreras, Jessye Norman, Arthur Grumiaux and Claudio Arrau . An extraordinary number of his recordings have achieved legendary status and are enduring staples of the catalogue.

Costa Pilavachi, Senior VP, A&R, Universal Classics (and President of Philips Classics for many years) said: ”I will miss not only his deep, sincere musicality but also his honesty, directness and sometimes fatalistic sense of humour. He was a musician of incomparable integrity and class.”


Paul Moseley, Managing Director of Decca Classics said: “The first LP of Mozart I bought as a child was his wonderfully bracing 1961 LSO versions of Symphonies 39 and 40.  He was a musician almost without ego and as inspired in the recording studio as he was on the concert platform. He will be much missed.”

colin davis philips




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  1. I was sad to read the news of Sir Colin Davis’ death. Way back in 1971 I was a 20 year-old working in the far north-west of Australia for Hammersley Iron. An Italian mate of mine had been on holidays in Perth and came back with an armful of classical records. I was underwhelmed at the time but my friend persisted and eventually I became hooked on Colin Davis’ recording of Rossini Overtures.

    Mt Tom Price was a very remote place in those days and the Colin Davis recording was a real consolation on more than one occasion. It also opened a door to classical music for me that remains a love to this day. Thank you Sir Colin.

  2. Yi-Peng Li says:

    Mr. Lebrecht, is there any way to know what will be included in the box? I’m sure that this box would include one of the three Philips Berlioz Fantastiques that Sir Colin Davis did. I don’t know which version will be included in this box – and it might probably be the famous Concertgebouw version.

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