Conductor Davies A Champion Of New Music And Steward Of Tradition

February was a pretty good month for me. On Friday night, February 10, I saw a program at the Mondavi Center in Davis, CA that included the West Coast premiere of Philip Glass’ 11th Symphony (less than two weeks removed from the world premiere at Carnegie Hall on Glass’ 80th birthday), mind-bending all by itself. The symphony, performed by Bruckner Orchester Linz, capped off an exciting evening that opened with Duke Ellington’s Black, Brown, and Beige Suite and Glass’ first violin concerto.

The next day I had the chance to speak with the music director of the Bruckner Orchester, Dennis Russell Davies, an honor to be sure. Davies is a powerhouse in and an advocate for new music and modern day composer’s like Glass, but his feet are firmly rooted in tradition. As he told me, you can’t have one without the other.

From Capital Public Radio in Sacramento:

“’When I was younger I had the chance to work closely with composers like Pierre Boulez, Luciano Berrio, Aaron Copland,’ Davies says. ‘And these were all composers who had an understanding and a love for the music of the past, and I was infected by it, I thought, ‘it’s the way to do it’ to be able to juxtapose pieces…’

Davies says that he likes adding modern pieces to programs more classical in nature to create a dynamic and diversified listening experience. He notes that by working with modern day composers, he has a better understanding of the music of centuries past.

‘This relationship I’ve had with living composers has enhanced my relationship with Beethoven and Brahms,’ Davies explains. ‘The fact that I’ve been able to work with these composers and ask them questions, it’s the same questions I ask the ‘old guys.’”

You can hear the Morning Edition feature and my entire interview with Davies at

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