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in his own words

The recent death of the conductor Sir Colin Davis at the age of 85 was a sad moment for anyone who enjoys classical music.

So it was pleasing to see his life and career marked so promptly in a special programme on BBC Four.

What became clear while watching ‘Sir Colin Davis With Love: In His Own Words’ was that it had been commissioned and recorded shortly before Sir Colin’s recent illness.

What emerged in John Bridcut’s sensitive and thoughtful portrait of the man were a number of deep truths about classical music and life itself.

Bridcut’s work as a documentary maker in the field of classical composers is celebrated elsewhere in these pages.

But here he took the opportunity to interview Sir Colin, allowing him space and time to reveal more about his musical life and career which had its fair share of ups and downs.

Davis was one of the first classical conductors I was aware of as a teenager, studying Beethoven’s symphonies for my ‘A’ level music course.

If memory serves, it was a recording of the 6th ‘Pastoral’ Symphony with the London Symphony Orchestra on the Phillips label.

What I particularly enjoyed about the programme was that Bridcut kept in the gaps and pauses between Davis’s answers.

Not every programme maker would have the confidence to let the camera keep rolling and then to resist the urge to move on to another topic with a new question, or over-edit and cram more material in.

There was poetry in the silences as Davis, clearly old and frail, reflected on musical moments that had left their mark on him and searched for the right words to articulate them.

As he did, Bridcut intercut marvellous performances from across half a century that captured a younger Davis, full of energy on the podium, maturing into a conductor whose final appearances needed the support of a chair.

A marvellous musician and a marvellous communicator of the music.

Sir Colin Davis With Love: In His Own Words – BBC iPlayer

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