LOS ANGELES – Colin Davis, the renowned British conductor who worked with the London Symphony Orchestra for many years, has died at 85. A statement from the orchestra said he died Sunday evening after a brief illness.
Davis was the longest-serving principal conductor in the London Symphony’s history, having first conducted the group in 1959. He became principal conductor in 1995 and served until 2006. He also served as president of the organization starting in 2007.
In addition, Davis had longstanding conducting relationships with Britain’s Royal Opera House, the English Chamber Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Known for his interpretations of music by Sibelius and Berlioz, Davis was a widely respected conductor who appeared with orchestras around the world. His wide repertoire and authoritative presence placed him in the top echelon of classical conductors in the 20th century.
Davis was the top conductor at the BBC Symphony from 1967 to 1971, and later served in a similar capacity at the Royal Opera at Covent Garden. He spent most of his career in Europe, but crossed the Atlantic frequently to appear with the Boston Symphony and the New York Philharmonic as principal guest conductor.
In addition to orchestral repertoire, Davis devoted a large portion of his career to opera. Among his most notable operatic performances was Wagner’s “Tannhaeuser” at the Bayreuth Festival in 1978. Davis was knighted in 1980, one of many honors in his long career.