Classical music world mourns legendary conductor 'Sir Colin'

Tributes poured in from all over the world of classical music on Monday for legendary British maestro Colin Davis, regarded as one of the greatest ever conductors of Mozart, who died Sunday aged 85.

The London Symphony Orchestra -- which the Surrey-born musician first conducted in 1959 before becoming its longest-serving principal conductor from 1995 to 2006 and then its president from 2007 -- expressed "deep sadness" at his death.

Davis, who was awarded a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 1965, was knighted in 1980 after which he affectionately became known simply as "Sir Colin".

He "has been at the head of the LSO family for many years. His musicianship and his humanity have been cherished by musicians and audiences alike. Sir Colin's role in British musical life was immense," the LSO said on its website.

Born on September 25, 1927 into a musical family, Davis studied clarinet at the Royal College of Music, but soon set his heart on conducting.

In addition to his life-long association with the LSO, Davis also forged close relationships with the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the English Chamber Orchestra.

In its own statement, Covent Garden -- where Davis was music director from 1971 until 1986 -- said it was "deeply saddened to hear of his death."

And the house's current music director Antonio Pappano described his loss as "a huge blow."

"We had future plans with him in place but more importantly, his passing represents an end of an era, where grit, toil, vision and energy were the defining elements of a leading international opera house," Pappano said.

"The warmth and excitement of his music-making will be terribly missed. He was a giant. A very sad moment for British music."

Outside Britain, Davis was also principal guest conductor of Dresden Staatskapelle, which eventually named him their first-ever honorary conductor in 1990.

The Dresden orchestra, currently on a tour of the United States under its current chief conductor Christian Thielemann, issued a statement describing "Sir Colin" as an "immensely loveable and completely unpretentious person whose warm-heartedness immediately won everyone over."

The orchestra said it would dedicate its two final concerts in New York's Carnegie Hall this week to Davis's memory.

The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Munich, of which Davis was chief conductor from 1983 to 1992, described him as the "gentleman conductor par excellence."

He was "a passionate musician renowned all over the world who was very loveable as a human being, with absolutely no trace of vanity," it said.

Davis was known as a peerless interpreter of Mozart, but he also championed the music of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) and the works of French composer Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) and was a similarly tireless supporter of British iconoclastic composer Michael Tippett (1905-1998).

He was also a highly prolific recording artist, with a discography stretching to around 320 records.

Though increasingly frail in recent years, Davis continued to work, most recently conducting Berlioz's "Requiem" in London's St Paul's Cathedral in June last year, as well as Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte" at Covent Garden.

The Royal Opera House said it would dedicate a run of Mozart's "The Magic Flute", scheduled to open on Tuesday, to the conductor's memory.