Former Last Night of the Proms conductor Sir Andrew Davis dies aged 80

Sir Andrew gestures emphatically with both hands while his hair shakes wildly
Sir Andrew, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Proms in 2011 - Chris Christodoulou/ArenaPAL

British conductor Sir Andrew Davis has died at the age of 80.

Sir Andrew, who was one of the longest-serving chief conductors of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, had been suffering from leukaemia, his agent Jonathan Brill confirmed on Sunday.

The Royal Opera House paid tribute on X, formerly Twitter, writing: “We are saddened to hear of the death of conductor Sir Andrew Davis.

“In a career spanning over five decades, he was the artistic leader of several of the world’s most distinguished opera and symphonic institutions.”

A follow-up post said: “He made his Royal Opera debut in 1983 conducting Der Rosenkavalier and last conducted Capriccio (in concert) in 2013. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time.”

Conductor Julian Lloyd Webber tweeted: “Sad to learn of the death of Sir Andrew Davis. A great musician who was wonderful with his soloists. I treasure the memory of a lovely Delius Concerto in 2012.”

Sir Andrew had been living with leukaemia for nearly two years, but it became acute shortly after his 80th birthday on Feb 2.

BBC Symphony Orchestra

He made his debut conducting at the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London in 1970 and that same year was named associate conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

He was a familiar face at the BBC Proms concerts in London and conducted the Last Night Of The Proms several times.

Sir Andrew was principal conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra from 1975-88; chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra from 1989-2000; Glyndebourne Festival Opera music director 1988-2000, and held the honorary title of conductor emeritus from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

He was also principal conductor of Lyric Opera Of Chicago from 2000-2021 and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s conductor laureate and chief conductor from 2013-2019.

Watford parish choir

The conductor was born in 1944 in Hertfordshire, the son of Florence Joyce Badminton and Robert James Davis.

He played the organ for the parish choir in Watford before winning the position of organ scholar at King’s College, Cambridge, and later took up conducting.

In 1992, he was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) and in 1999 he was knighted in the New Year’s Honours.

Sir Andrew’s last public appearance was in December with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, when he conducted Handel’s Messiah at the Symphony Centre.

His wife Gianna Rolandi died in 2021 and the couple are survived by their son Edward Frazier Davis.

The conductor’s official website says that services following his death will be private.