Bridgewater Sinfonia, Berkhamsted

Sir Andrew Davis

Sir Andrew Davis

R.I.P. Sir Andrew Davis
2nd February 1944 – 20th April 2024

A memoir by Roger Neighbour

We in Bridgewater Sinfonia have been privileged to have had as our Patron, since 2008, the late Sir Andrew Davis, conductor and organist. Although Andrew and the Sinfonia never had the pleasure of playing together, I know we would have got on well. His ability to draw the best out of an orchestra no matter what its level of accomplishment, coupled with the clarity of his beat, his energy, enthusiasm and good humour, would have guaranteed it.

I knew Andrew for over 60 years, first as a fellow pupil at Watford Grammar School for Boys and then as an undergraduate two years ahead of me at King’s College, Cambridge, where he was the organ scholar. Even at school his prodigious talent as a pianist was manifest. It was with Andrew on the harpsichord that I first performed Bach’s fifth Brandenburg Concerto. I remember being so gob-smacked as he faultlessly rattled off the first movement’s long cadenza-like passage in demi-semi-quavers that I almost failed to come in at the end of it. At the age of 18 he was joint winner in the piano concerto class of the Watford music festival, his performance of the Grieg concerto being described by the adjudicator Antony Hopkins, himself to become a valued Honorary Friend of the Sinfonia, as ‘masterly’.

The same cannot be said of Andrew’s prowess on the oboe, mercifully confined to the school orchestra. I still wince to recall his excruciating mangling of the oboe solo in the overture to Rossini’s The Italian Girl in Algiers, followed by an all-too-audible string of expletives.

It was at Cambridge in the 1960s that Andrew sensed his destiny. Working with the University orchestras and encouraged by David Willcocks, he quickly established himself as first amongst equals in a group of student conductors who all went on to achieve renown in their own right: Mark Elder, Richard Hickox, David Atherton …

Andrew’s subsequent career spanned the globe and encompassed a vast repertoire of composers and genres, from Bach to Birtwistle, Baroque to grand opera. His later years were spent largely in Chicago, but British audiences will remember him mainly for his eleven-year tenure as chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and as the hugely popular master of ceremonies at twelve last nights of the Proms.

However, for me what remains is the memory of a lovely man who never allowed fame and adulation to outweigh the enjoyment of sharing music with friends.

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Our Next Concert

15 June 2024

Beethoven Violin concerto

BEETHOVEN Violin concerto in D major
Soloist Dan-Iulian Druțac
BRAHMS Symphony No 1 in C minor