I can’t remember having heard many recordings by Colin Davis, sorry, Sir Colin Davis, but the ones I have heard suggest a trend: His conducting is slow. Maybe he’s paid for the minute—I don’t know. The recordings that I instantly remember have all something slow about them. There’s Haydn’s “Surprise” symphony, with a surprisingly dull and slow second movement; Schubert’s ninth, where the finale sounds like a stroll in the park (not to mention the eight); Berlioz’ Symphonie Phantastique where the protagonist almost never reaches the scaffold, and Sibelius’ first where the flute in the intro overstays its welcome.
These works are gently conducted with an attention to details. Mr. Davis’ interpretations are like slow and intimate dances with the orchestra. But, I should have seen this coming. After all, if one rearranges the letters in his name, and at the same time replaces v with w, one i with e and drops the other, one gets slow dance. Damn. He fooled me. As George W. Bush so elegantly put it, Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again. Ok, I don’t really know what that means, it’s so dense of lacking meaning that it’s impenetrable—like some of Mr. Davis’ conducting efforts, which are so full of absent progress that you won’t be able to keep up the interest and instead start drowsing. But hey, you’ll have plenty of time for a nap.
Truth to be told, Mr. Davis isn’t always that bad after all. Slow can also be good. Just listen to Karl Böhm’s interpretation of the Scherzo from Beethoven’s 9th symphony—it really makes one appreciate the brisk tempo used by George Szell.