The world of classical music has just lost one of its greatest conductors . The eminent British maestro Sir Colin Davis, 85 , has passed away after a brief illness not long after leading his final concerts in London . Sir Colin never fit the stereotype of the glamorous ,flamboyant playboy of the podium which so many people have in their minds when they think of world famous conductors . He always put the music first and not his own ego .
In hsi long and distinguished career , he conducted a remarkably wide range of orchestral and operatic repertoire with most of the world's foremost orchestras and opera companies , and held posts as the head of the London symphony orchestra , the Royal Opera in London , the B.B.C. symphony orchestra of London , and the Bavarian Radio symphony of Munich . His association with the London symphony orchestra lasted no fewer than five decades , several as principal conductor in the 1990s up to about 2007 , and his music directorship of London's Royal opera company was remarkably fruitful .
In America , Sir Colin was a regular guest conductor with the Boston symphony, New York Philharmonic and Cleveland orchestras , and led several acclaimed new productions at the Metropolitan opera . In Europe, he regularly conducted such leading orchestras as the Dresden State orchestra , The Royal Concertgebouw orchestra of Amsterdam , and the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics .
Davis made a wide variety of recordings , many for the now defunct Philips label with these orchestras and opera companies of works ranging from George Frideric Handel to music by leading 20thcentury composer ssuch as Benjamin Britten ,Sir Michael Tippett and others . He also made recordings for R.C.A. records, Sony Classical , and other labels , many of which have have been widely acclaimed by both critics and listeners everywhere .
Sr Colin was particlarly noted for his championship of the quirky and highly original music of Hector Berlioz , and recorded virtually his entire orchestral ,choral and operatic output , re-recording some of them several times . Sme 40 years ago , he made the first complete recording of "Les Troyens" in London with the Royal opera i , revealing this elusive ,difficult and monumental opera for as towering masterpiece it is , as well as the first recording of the scintillating comic opera "Benvenuto Cellinoi" ,based on the life of the rogue Italian goldsmith and sculptor .
There are also acclained recordings of the Berlioz "Symphonie Fantastique," his most famous work, which Sir Colin recorded no fewer than four times , plus the monumental Requiem , etc .
Mozart was another composer for which sir Colin was renowned , and he made acclained recordings of all seven of Mozart's mature operas for Philips, The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute , The Abduction from the Seraglio, Idomeneo and La Clemenza di Tito , with some of the world's foremost opera singers . Plus Mozart's greatest symphonies concertos and choral works .
Davis was the foremost champion of the great but quirky English composer Sir Michael Tippett , (1905 - 1998 ) , and was a close friend , recording Tippett's operas "The Midsummer marriage", The Knot Garden", and a variety of symphonies ,concertos and other works of this composer .
There are also recordings of operas by Benjamin Britten, such as "Peter Grimes", " A Midsummer Night's Dream , Wagner's Lohengrin ,Beethoven's Fidelio , Weber's "Der Freischutz", Verdi's "Falstaff ", and other operas , as well as the complete symphonies of Beethoven, no fewer than three recordings of th eseven Sibelius symphonies, )another composer for which he was famous ), a variety of Haydn symphonies , and ones by Brahms, Dvorak, Elgar, Bruckner,Mahler , Schubert ,etc .
Although he was never a flashy interpreter , his performances were anything but dull and staid . He always thought deeply about the music , its meaning and significance , and sought to delve as deeply as possible into both the spirit and letter of the wroks .
As a young man, Sir Colin's path toward becoming a conductor was far from easy ; he studied clarinet at the Royal college of music in London , but his ambitions to study conducting there were were stymied by his lack of skill playing the piano , which is an important instrument for conductors to be able to play . But he managed to work his way up the ladder of podium success starting as an assistant conductor with various musicla organizations such as the Sadlers/Wells opera of london, now the English National opera , and his big break came in the late 1950s when he was a last minute substitute for a concert performance to be conducted by legendary German conductor Otto Klemperer ( 1885-1973 ) when the elder conductor was indisposed , and as they say, the rest is history . The musicians of the world's leading orchestras , who are often highly critical of the ocductors who lead them and are not easily impressed , had nothing but the greatest respect and admiration for him .
There is no question that Sir Colin Davis will go down in music history as one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century . R.I.P.
It was only until fairly recently that the profession of orchestral and operatic conducting was an exclusively male one, as well as almost exclusively white . Was it sexism alone , or a lack of women aiming to make a mark in this difficult, demanding and highly competitive field ? It's difficult to say .
It's never been an easy profession to break into , and traditionally , one became a conductor by working as a rehearsal pianist in an opera house as well as assisitng the conductor with rehearsals, preparing the chorus , conducting offstage bands , which are quite common in opera ,etc . Eventually, if one showed one's mettle, one would be assigned some performances to conduct , gradually achieving more prominence , getting invited to conduct at other opera hpouses and eventually moving to concert halls to conduct orchestral works .
So many of the greatest ocnductors have started this way, and there is no better hands on training for this very difficult and complex profession . They include such legendary names as Otto Klemperer, Gustav Mahler, Bruno Walter, Sor Georg Solti, Herbert Von Karajan, Erich Kleiber and his son Carlos , Karl Bohm, Erich Leinsdorf, George Szell , Antal Dorati, Fritz Reiner , and many others .
Beginning with the second half of the 20th century , conservatories and university music schools began to offer graduate degrees in conducting , and Leionard Bernstein , Leoard Slatkin, James Levine , Riccardo Muti , and many more recent conductors have begun this way, studying with eminent conductors such as Fritz Reiner , George Szell, Serge Koussevitzky , who taught not at conservatories but the Summer Tanglewood festival in Massachuissetts, among others . Becoming the protegee of a famous conductor was they way to make contacts in the field .
But where were women conductors all this time ? The eminent French composition teacher Nadia Boulanger ( 1887 - 1979) , who taught so many great 20th century composers , was active as a conductor and was the first woman to conduct the New York Philharmonic , but that was not her primary activity . A Dutch woman , Antonia Brico , had something of a career but never achieved the prominence of the greatest male maestros .
In America , the pioneering Sarah Cadwelll (1924-2006) founded the Boston opera , and performed many important 20th century operas by Schoenberg and others , as well as staging them . Beverly Sills was one of many renowned singers who were attracted to her enterpising productions, and in 1976 , she became the first woman to condut at the Metropolitan opera with Verdi's La Traviata . She also conducted orchestral repertoire and appeared with the New York Philharmonic ,Cleveland orchestra and other leading orchestras .
Eve Queler (1936), founded the Opera Orchestra of New York , which was devoted to giving concert performances of numerous rarely performed yet interesting and important operas by Meyerbeer, Massenet , Rossini, Donizetti , and other composers , primarily in Carnegie hall . She also attracted many of the greatest opera singers of the time as well as giving opportunities for promising young vocal talents . She used an orchestra consisting of some of New York's finest free lance musicians , and several of her performances were recorded live . She has recently retired , but the OONY as it is known, continues to the present day . She has a very devoted and enthusiastic audience audience of New York opera fans .
More recently ,Marin Alsop , (1956-) a protegee of Leonard Bernsttein at Tanglewood , has become perhaps the most high profile woman conductor of the present day , and was appointed the first music director of one of America's major orchestras, the Baltimore symphony several years ago , and has recently been appointed music director of the Sao Paolo symphony in Brazil, as well as formerly heading England's Bounemputh symphony, one of England's leading regional orchestras . She has made recordings for the Naxos label in Baltimore, Bournemouth and London of a wide variety of repertoire .
Joann Faletta , a Juilliard conducting pupil of the distinguished Swedish conductor Sixten Ehrling , is currently music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic in upstate New York , and has appeared with leading orchestras all over America, Europe and elsewhere , also making recordings for Naxos records . She has been a champion of long neglected orchestral works by many different composers, and is known for her advocacy of women composers .
Australian Simone Young, is currently nearing the end of her music directorship of the Hamburg State opera , one of Germany's most presitgious, and has also conducted at the Metropolitan opera and elswhere . American Anne Manson has conducted at the New York City opera and was the first woman to conduct the tradition rich and highly conservative Viena Philhamonic , having conducted Mussorgsky's great opera Boris Godunov at the prestigious Salburg festival .
Xian Zhang of China is a protege of Lorin Maazel and served as assistant and later associate ocnductor of the New Yokr Philharmonic when Maazel was music director there several year ago , and has been appointed music director of one of the leading orchestras in Milan . Susanna Malkki of Finland has achieved renown as a specialist in contemporary music in Europe but also conducts traditional repertoire , and and Anu Tali of neighboring Estonia is also making an important career .
These are only several of the increasing numbers of women who have been breaking the glass podium . The website of the Kapralova society , named after a promising young early 20th century Czech composer and ocnductor whose career was cut short by untimely death , lists what appear to be at least 300 or so women conductors active today . Things are definitely looking up for women conductors today, and it's about time !