Andrew Davis (conductor)

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Andrew Davis
Davis, c. 1987
Andrew Frank Davis

(1944-02-02)2 February 1944
Died20 April 2024(2024-04-20) (aged 80)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
(m. 1989; died 2021)

Sir Andrew Frank Davis CBE (2 February 1944 – 20 April 2024) was an English conductor. He was the long-time chief conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. He was music director at the Glyndebourne Festival from 1988 to 2000, and especially known for conducting the traditional Last Night of The Proms, including Last Night speeches. He was music director and principal conductor of the Lyric Opera of Chicago from 2000 to the 2020/21 season.

Music critic Alan Blyth described Davis as "a conductor whose technical skill was enhanced by an inborn enthusiasm for and dedication to the task in hand that he was able to transfer to the forces before him."[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Andrew Frank Davis was born on 2 February 1944, in Ashridge, Hertfordshire, England.[1][2] His parents were Robert J. Davis and his wife Florence Joyce (née Badminton),[3] Davis grew up in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, and in Watford.[4] He had piano lessons from age five[3] and attended Watford Boys' Grammar School, where he studied Classics in his sixth form years. His adolescent musical work included playing the organ at the Palace Theatre, Watford.[4]

Davis studied at the Royal College of Music and King's College, Cambridge, where he was an organ scholar, graduating in 1967.[1][5] He later studied conducting in Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome, with Franco Ferrara.[1]


Davis was a keyboardist (piano, harpsichord and organ) for the Academy of St Martin in the Fields from 1966 to 1970.[3] His then made his debut with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and became associate conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.


From 1975 Davis was music director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO). During his tenure the new Roy Thomson Hall was opened in 1982. He took the orchestra on tours of Asia, Europe and North America;[3] in 1978 they toured China, in the UK they played in Edinburgh and at the Proms, in Canada they toured far north including Inuvik, North West Territories, and in the US they frequently performed at Carnegie Hall.[6] He conducted the orchestra in 33 recordings; three of them received Juno Awards and two a Grammy nomination. He support young talent, collaborating with the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra and supporting the founding of the Toronto Children's Chorus, performing in TSO concerts. He also played keyboard instruments and sometimes entertained as "master of ceremonies" in costume.[6]

Davis held the post until 1988, and then took the title of Conductor Laureate with the TSO.[7] He returned every year to conduct the orchestra, altogether 50 years from his debut in 1974. He conducted around 1000 concerts, at halls also including Massey Hall and Ontario Place. In 2018 a street near his home was named Sir Andrew Davis Lane. In April 2022, he was one of former TSO music directors including Gustavo Gimeno meeting to celebrate the orchestra's 100th season, Maestros' Homecoming.[6]


In 1988, Davis became music director at the Glyndebourne Festival, where he had first conducted Capriccio by Richard Strauss in 1973.[3] In 1989, he married his third wife, the American soprano Gianna Rolandi (1952–2021), whom he had met while conducting at the Metropolitan Opera in 1984.[8] He conducted there operas such as Janácek's The Makropulos Case, Rossini's Le comte Ory and Alban Berg's Lulu.[9] Davis concluded his Glyndebourne tenure in 2000. In 1989, Sir John Drummond appointed Davis as chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra (BBC SO).[10] During his BBC SO tenure, Davis restored the tradition established by Malcolm Sargent of the chief conductor of the BBC SO conducting the Last Night of The Proms. He was noted for his humorous Last Night speeches, including giving two speeches after the Major-General's patter song from The Pirates of Penzance,[4][11] in 1998 and in 2000,[3] but he also more seriously addressed the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales, Mother Teresa, and Sir Georg Solti in his 1997 Last Night speech.[12] Davis stepped down as chief conductor of BBC SO in 2000 [3] and from then held the title of Conductor Laureate of the orchestra.[13] In 1998 he conducted at the Proms Elgar's Third Symphony that Anthony Payne had derived from the composer's sketches.[3]

In May 1992, Davis was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) and in the 1999 New Year Honours he was appointed a Knight Bachelor.[13] In 2002 he conducted the Prom at the Palace concert, held in the gardens of Buckingham Palace as part of the celebrations for the Queen's Golden Jubilee.[14]


Davis became music director and principal conductor of the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2000. His work in Chicago included his first conducting of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen cycle in 2005[15] and the first Chicago production of Michael Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage.[16] His Lyric Opera of Chicago tenure ended at the close of the 2020–2021 season.[17]

In 2005 Davis became Music Advisor to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, for a designated three-year period. In September 2006, he announced that he would relinquish this position with Pittsburgh after the 2007–2008 season.[18] In October 2007, Davis and the orchestra mutually agreed to terminate his contract early and for him not to conduct his scheduled Pittsburgh Symphony concerts in the 2007–2008 season, because of increased demands on his schedule.[19]


Davis conducting the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in August 2012

In June 2012 the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) named Davis its chief conductor, effective in January 2013, with an initial contract of four years.[20] In July 2015, the MSO extended Davis's contract through 2019.[21] He conducted chorus and orchestra in August 2012 in works by Percy Grainger, including Tribute to Foster,[22] and subsequently recorded them.[23] He recorded with the orchestra orchestral works by the Australian composer Carl Vine, which was nominated for an ARIA Music Awards in the category Best Classical Album. Davis concluded his MSO chief conductorship in December 2019,[24] and was named Conductor Laureate the following year.[25]

Personal life[edit]

Davis and his wife Gianna Rolandi resided in Chicago.[5] They married in 1989 and their marriage lasted until her death in 2021.[26] Their son Edward Frazier Davis, born in 1989, is a composer and a graduate of Knox College.[27]

Davis died from leukaemia in Chicago, on 20 April 2024, at the age of 80.[3][5][28][29]


Davis performed a wide range of repertoire, with a particular focus on British composers, such as Harrison Birtwistle, Benjamin Britten, Edward Elgar[25] and Michael Tippett,[25][30] He conducted the British premiere of Tippett's The Mask of Time. Davis programmed 20th-century music by composers including Pierre Boulez, Leoš Janáček and Olivier Messiaen, and participated in world premieres, both as player and conductor.[25]


Davis recorded for a number of labels, including NMC Recordings, Teldec and Deutsche Grammophon.[31]

He conducted a solo album by mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, Frederica von Stade – Mahler Songs, of Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn and Rückert-Lieder, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra for Columbia in 1978.[32] In 1987 he recorded Handel's Messiah in an arrangement that he had made for symphony orchestra, with Kathleen Battle, Florence Quivar, John Aler, Samuel Ramery and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, by EMI.[33] He made a critically acclaimed recording of Birtwistle's opera, The Mask of Orpheus.[34] A recording of Alban Berg's Violin Concerto and Three Pieces for Orchestra with the BBC SO was released in 2022.

Davis recorded a series with the BBC SO and Chorus of music by British composers for Teldec, The British Line. It was reissued as a 16-CD retrospective by Warner Classics. He also recorded works by Hector Berlioz, Arthur Bliss, York Bowen (nominated for a 2012 Grammy in 2012 in the category Best Orchestral Performance), Frederick Delius, Elgar (2018 Diapason d'Or in the category symphonic music), Gerald Finzi, Eugene Aynsley Goossens, Percy Grainger, Handel (nominated for a 2018 Grammy for Best Choral Performance), Gustav Holst, Charles Ives, and Jules Massenet (2021 JUNO Award for Best Classical Album: Vocal or Choral).[33]


In the 1992 DVD Glyndebourne Festival Opera: A Gala Evening, recorded live by Arthaus Musik, Davis contributed several sections conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra, including Montserrat Caballé as Verdi's Desdemona.[35]


  1. ^ a b c d Blyth, Alan (2002) [2001]. "Davis, Sir Andrew". Grove Music Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.07304. ISBN 978-1-56159-263-0. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  2. ^ International Who's Who in Classical Music. Vol. 19. Europa Publications. 2003. p. 176. ISBN 978-1-8574-3174-2.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Millington, Barry (22 April 2024). "Sir Andrew Davis obituary". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 23 April 2024. Retrieved 23 April 2024.
  4. ^ a b c Walsh, John (13 September 1997). "Conductor of hope and glory". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 7 September 2009.
  5. ^ a b c Nanji, Noor (21 April 2024). "Sir Andrew Davis: BBC Proms conductor dies aged 80". BBC. Archived from the original on 21 April 2024. Retrieved 22 April 2024.
  6. ^ a b c Doole, Kerry (23 April 2024). "Obituaries: Toronto Symphony Orchestra's Sir Andrew Davis, Toronto CFNY Radio Host James Reid". Archived from the original on 23 April 2024. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  7. ^ Littler, William (8 May 2015). "The TSO's Englishman in Toronto". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 18 August 2019. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  8. ^ "Obituary: Gianna Rolandi Davis". Donnellan Family Funeral Services, Tribute Archive. June 2021. Archived from the original on 9 August 2022. Retrieved 9 August 2022.
  9. ^ Whitley, John (28 June 1997). "Does he have what it takes?". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 29 July 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  10. ^ Burton, Humphrey (8 September 2006). "Obituary: Sir John Drummond". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 19 April 2019. Retrieved 7 September 2009.
  11. ^ Cannadine, David (May 2008). "The 'Last Night of the Proms' in historical perspective". Historical Research. 81 (212): 315–349. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2281.2008.00466.x.
  12. ^ Cowan, Robert; Seckerson, Edward (15 September 1997). "Last Saturday saw the Last Night of the Proms and the first night of the Royal Opera's exile at the Barbican. Robert Cowan and Edward Seckerson were at the respective venues...". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 26 January 2012. Retrieved 7 September 2009.
  13. ^ a b "Andrew Davis / Conductor Laureate". BBC. 2024. Archived from the original on 21 April 2024. Retrieved 22 April 2024.
  14. ^ "Sonniger Klassik-Auftakt zum Golden Jubilee". Neue Zürcher Zeitung (in German). 2 June 2002. Retrieved 22 April 2024.
  15. ^ Kettle, Martin (7 April 2005). "Der Ring des Nibelungen (Lyric Opera, Chicago)". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 18 August 2019. Retrieved 7 September 2009.
  16. ^ Westwood, Matthew (21 August 2009). "Davis's baton change". The Australian. ProQuest 356665245. Retrieved 22 April 2024.
  17. ^ "Sir Andrew Davis' Australian Appointment". Classic FM. 17 June 2012. Archived from the original on 9 January 2022. Retrieved 9 January 2022.
  18. ^ Druckenbrod, Andrew (29 September 2006). "Future succession to keep PSO busy". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on 23 December 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2007.
  19. ^ Druckenbrod, Andrew (27 October 2007). "Davis backs out of PSO concerts". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on 23 December 2011. Retrieved 27 October 2007.
  20. ^ "Sir Andrew Davis announced as Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Chief Conductor" (Press release). Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. 18 June 2012. Archived from the original on 27 March 2015. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  21. ^ "Chief Conductor Sir Andrew Davis to lead the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra until 2019" (Press release). Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. 27 July 2015. Archived from the original on 11 April 2018. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  22. ^ "Tribute to Foster". Australian Music Centre. 2024. Retrieved 23 April 2024.
  23. ^ "Percy Grainger". Chandos. 2024. Archived from the original on 23 April 2024. Retrieved 23 April 2024.
  24. ^ McPherson, Angus (10 April 2018). "Sir Andrew Davis to step down from Melbourne Symphony Orchestra". Limelight. Archived from the original on 18 August 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  25. ^ a b c d "Sir Andrew Davis / Conductor Laureate / In memoriam: 2013-2024". Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. April 2024. Archived from the original on 15 March 2024. Retrieved 23 April 2024.
  26. ^ Bordello, Enzo (20 June 2021). "Gianna Rolandi 1952-2021". Parterre Box. Archived from the original on 4 June 2023. Retrieved 23 April 2024.
  27. ^ Wright-Pryor, Barbara (16 June 2012). "Sir Andrew Davis receives honorary degree from Knox College". The Chicago Crusader. Archived from the original on 14 April 2018. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  28. ^ Brown, Mark (21 April 2024). "Sir Andrew Davis, ex-chief conductor of BBC Symphony Orchestra, dies aged 80". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 22 April 2024. Retrieved 22 April 2024.
  29. ^ Chris Jones (21 April 2024). "Conductor Andrew Davis, music director emeritus of Lyric Opera, dies at 80". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 22 April 2024. Retrieved 22 April 2024.
  30. ^ Cairns, David (March 1998). "Images of beauty: Michael Tippett 1905–1998". The Musical Times. 139 (1861): 4–5. Archived from the original on 8 May 2002. Retrieved 7 September 2009.
  31. ^ Ashley, Tim (23 February 2007). "Chopin: Piano Concerto No 1; Liszt: Piano Concerto No 1, Li/ Philharmonia/ Davis". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 18 August 2019. Retrieved 7 September 2009.
  32. ^ Forsling, Göran (June 2011). "Gustav Mahler (1860–1911) / Songs". Archived from the original on 18 January 2021. Retrieved 22 April 2024.
  33. ^ a b Hugill, Robert (February 2009). "George Frideric Handel (1685–1759) / Messiah". Archived from the original on 2 July 2022. Retrieved 22 April 2024.
  34. ^ "Birtwistle". BBC Music Magazine. Archived from the original on 17 January 2013. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
  35. ^ Rohan, Mscott (May 2004). "Glynbourne Festival Opera – A Gala Evening". Gramophone. Retrieved 22 April 2024.

External links[edit]

Cultural offices
Preceded by Music Director, Glyndebourne Opera Festival
Succeeded by
Preceded by Principal Conductor, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
1995–1998 (with Paavo Järvi)
Succeeded by
Preceded by Music Director, Lyric Opera of Chicago
Succeeded by