Sir Colin Davis Masterclass

Overture – Leonore No.3
Les francs-juges – Overture, Op.3
Romeo and Juliet – Fantasy Overture

London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis
Philippe Bach
Mark Heron
Tagbo Ilozue

Reviewed by: Alan Pickering

Reviewed: 1 June, 2006
Venue: Jerwood Hall, LSO St Luke's, Old Street, London

As the conclusion of the current “LSO Discovery Conducting Scheme”, this masterclass with Sir Colin Davis found three young conductors, Mark Heron, Tagbo Ilozue and Philippe Bach, offering themselves up for scrutiny. The session commenced with each conductor conducting a different piece, Heron the Berlioz, Ilozue the Beethoven, and Bach the Tchaikovsky. After each piece, Sir Colin commented on technique and the conductors’ interpretation of the music, sometimes taking the baton himself. Following the interval each participant had an opportunity to play a different piece, albeit that the Berlioz was dropped, Ilozue taking the Tchaikovsky, the other two conductors working on the Beethoven.

As could be expected from Sir Colin, his comments were both incisive and constructive and delivered in a light-hearted manner, which made them easy to appreciate. Typical of these was a reference to the Berlioz being used as a television programme signature-tune (the BBC’s “Monitor” presented by the late Huw Wheldon) at a time when “they used nice music”.

Given the nature of the evening it would be both churlish and unfair to comment on individual performances, but typical of Davis’s comments would be the need to ensure that clear direction is given to the orchestra whilst allowing the musicians the opportunity to play; to be careful of tempo and get “beneath” the score so as to appreciate the underlying aspects as proposed (or thought proposed) by the composer.

The evening was enhanced by the flexible playing of the LSO, no easy task given the many demands placed upon the musicians to replay selected passages, sometimes over and again with minor variations to emphasis a particular point. Even a broken string (as happened to leader Gordan Nikolitch, quickly repaired by Carmine Lauri sitting behind) failed to interrupt proceedings for more than a brief moment.

An illuminating evening.

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