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The great English conductor Sir Colin Davis died Sunday at the age of 85.

I think I only heard him once live (and that not such a memorable occasion), but I have enjoyed his recordings of Haydn (don’t forget), Mozart, Sibelius, Stravinsky (there’s a rip-snorter of the Symphony in Three Movements) and, especially, Berlioz for many years.

He couldn’t be beat in Berlioz. From a record review I wrote for the Los Angeles Times in 1992, here’s partly why:

Vienna Philharmonic, conducted by Colin Davis. Philips 432 151-2. The “Symphonie fantastique,” contrary to its popularity for grandiosity and grotesquerie, is more interesting as music of subtle colorings, long lines and rhythmic ingenuities. Davis, who has long been without equal in capturing the less lurid aspects of Berlioz’s music, is up to his penetrating self here, the first offering in his new series of Berlioz recordings. In this finely etched and closely argued performance we hear all the details that make this music click: orchestrational intricacies that help create rhythmic syncopations, connect linear threads, invoke wistful emotions–the last of which are enhanced by the characterful Viennese woodwinds. Davis’ account has plenty of force too but is remarkable more for sensitivity than sensationalism.”

An obituary by Paul Griffiths for the New York Times is here

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