Andrew Davis (1944 – 2024)


A nod to writer Simon Brackenborough for pointing to this video of Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis performed by the BBC Symphony conducted by Andrew Davis whose death at the age of 80 was announced today.

It’s unusual nowadays that everyone in the cultural sector/industry/interest group agrees on something, though it does appear so today.

My feed has been full of tributes for Davis from musicians, administrators and audience members alike. I have no personal recollections of interacting with the man, though I did observe him from a distance at various rehearsals.

There was a refreshing authenticity about him lacking in some present-day leaders. What you saw on stage and on TV was, it seemed, him through and through. What a happy way to live a life.

Whilst the visuals in the TV performance of Vaughan Williams’ much-loved work are fantastic, the cavernous sound denies the visceral impact experienced in the more intimate recordings I prefer.

Davis conducted this piece in the 2019 Proms. Today I vividly remembered listening to it on the radio live and thinking “Jesus, that’s special” not really knowing why. It had a powerful effect (if a performance can communicate something via a bog-standard kitchen radio that makes it something worth returning to then that meets my mark). I listened to it back numerous times on various devices. It remains a potent memory. That in itself is something special about classical music.

And, judging by what I noted down five years ago, my memory of it now is as sharp as the performance was in 2019). I can’t draw on much knowledge of the great man’s work. Next week is an opportunity to tap into a whole back catalogue of recordings.