London Symphony conductor Colin Davis dies at 85

LONDON (AP) — Colin Davis, the former principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and one of Britain’s elder statesmen of classical music, has died at 85.

The orchestra said Davis died Sunday after a short illness.

One of the best-known figures in British music, Davis worked with the London symphony for more than half a century.

He first conducted for the LSO in 1959 and took the principal conductor post in 1995, serving until 2006 before becoming president.

The orchestra said Davis had been “at the head of the LSO family for many years.”

“His musicianship and his humanity have been cherished by musicians and audiences alike,” it said in a statement.

Associated in particular with the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Jean Sibelius and Hector Berlioz, Davis won three Grammy awards — two in 2002 for the LSO’s recording of “Les Troyens” by Berlioz, and one for Giuseppe Verdi’s “Falstaff” four years later — and a host of other trophies.

He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1980.

Davis had worked with ensembles around the world, including the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Opera House, the BBC Symphony and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Antonio Pappano, music director of the Royal Opera House, said Davis’ death was a blow to the company, which had planned to work with him again. Pappano said Davis’ death “represents an end of an era, where grit, toil, vision and energy were the defining elements of a leading international opera house.”

“The warmth and excitement of his music-making will be terribly missed. He was a giant,” Pappano said.

The London Symphony Orchestra said Davis had made an immense contribution to British musical life and that “music lovers across the world have been inspired by his performances and recordings.”

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