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Colin Davis

45 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 13 June 2009

Tom Service talks to conductor Colin Davis - as he celebrates 50 years with the London Symphony Orchestra - about the place of orchestral music in the 21st century.

At the Royal Opera House, conductor Antonio Pappano and director Christof Loy discuss their new production of Berg's Lulu, an epic tale of moral and social decline.

And Tom debates the wider links between music and morality with an expert panel - musicologist John Deathridge, composer Deirdre Gribbin and philosopher Roger Scruton.

  • Sir Colin Davis

    Sir Colin Davis

    This week on Music Matters Tom Service explores the relationship between music and morality, and asks: Can music change us? But first, he meets the conductor Sir Colin Davis. They discuss his 50-year association with the London Symphony Orchestra, including 12 years from 1995 as Principal Conductor, a period that many see as a highpoint. He also talks about the ethics of conducting, the balance between letting the orchestra play whilst leading them at the same time and the changes in the culture of the LSO that he has seen during this period.

    Sir Colin Davis conducts the London Symphony Orchestra, playing Beethoven, Mozart and Brahms, in two celebratory concerts at the Barbican Centre in London on Wednesday June 17th and Sunday June 21st.

  • Parthenogenesis


    James MacMillan’s music theatre work, to a libretto by Michael Symmons Roberts, dramatises the story of a German woman who gave birth without any male intervention, spontaneously conceiving a child during a bombing raid at the end of the war. This becomes a question of ethics in MacMillan’s hands, who asks: what does it mean to be a clone, which is effectively what the daughter is?

    The director of the current Royal Opera House production, Katie Mitchell, explains that her aim is to open up her audience to new ways of thinking about the world and their place in it, without preaching on rights and wrongs, and to question their ideas on morality in the modern age.

    Parthenogenesis runs at the Linbury Studio at the Royal Opera House in London until Thursday June 18th.

  • Lulu


    Berg’s Lulu is one of the most monstrous anti-heroines of any opera: murderess, seductress and manipulator of human emotion. The conductor and director of the ROH’s current production, Antonio Pappano and Christof Loy respectively, discuss with Tom whether the character is more a victim of circumstance and the unquenchable lust of her lovers than the villain of the piece.

    They also explore the morality of the music, examining the paradox of the fact that Berg’s score is often so gorgeous to listen to whilst simultaneously depicting an immoral world of fetid humanity.

    Lulu runs at the Royal Opera House until Saturday June 20th, and is broadcast on Opera on 3 on July 4th.

  • Music and Morality Panel

    Music and Morality Panel

    Plato thought that some musical modes, scales and idioms should be banned since they adversely affected social behaviour, and today we can still catch echoes of that debate when there are calls for rap stars to be banned because of their lyrics, or heavy metal to be silenced (or at least turned down) because of its noise and intensity. But how can music without lyrics be moral?

    Three of the keynote speakers at a Music and Morality conference taking place in London next week, the musicologist John Deathridge, the philosopher Roger Scruton and the composer Deirdre Gribbin, join Tom in the studio to discuss the issues surrounding the relationship between music and morality.


    Sir Colin Davis © Clive Barda
    Amy Freston as Kristel in Parthenogenesis © Stephen Cummiskey

    Agneta Eichenholz as Lulu © Clive Barda - June 2009

    Pythagoras teaching music


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