James Leavey's Sharing An Ashtray With... Sir Colin Davis

Sir Colin Davis

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James Leavey's Corner
  By James Leavey

Pipe smoking is music to theworld famous classical music conductorís earsÖ

JL:Where did you first start smoking"

CD: My father smoked a pipe and I think it wasprobably during the time when I did National Service.  I took upsmoking a pipe on the journeys from London and Windsor, en route tomy barracks.  I held the lowest rank in the army as a musician inthe Household Cavalry; no wonder I started smoking.

JL:  Do you stillenjoy pipe-smoking"

CD: Iíve just smoked one pipe today.

JL:  What tobacco do you enjoy most"

CD: Now, Iíve been introduced to blackmixtures by my son, but I still enjoy what is called an EnglishMixture, that is a mixture of Virginia and Latakia.  Anyway, thebest version of that comes from George Hoober, in Munich.  He has a package called ĎEnglish No.1í,that Iím very fond of.

JL:  Which musician, living or dead, would youlike most to share an ashtray with"

CD:  The two men who I admire probably most werepipe-smokers.  One was Bach, who actually wrote a poem in praise ofpipe-smoking, and Mozart, who we know was a pipe-smoker. And Isuspect Beethoven was probably a pipe-smoker too. So, if one ofthese three men would care to smoke a pipe with me Ė how wonderful!

JL:  If you were forced to smoke in the doorway of one of theworldís musical venues, which I hope has never happened, which onewould you prefer to smoke in"

CD: What an extraordinary idea.  Probably inthe gentís (toilet) at the Barbican.  Thereís no picture of mepuffing my pipe at the Vienna OperaHouse or in La Scala in Milan.  I have smoked in all kinds of holyplaces, so I canít say I would prefer one or the other.

JL: Have you ever conducted with your pipe"

CD: Never. But then Iím not old enough,because it was Klemperer who smoked a pipe and the leader of theorchestra used to remove his pipe before they started therehearsal.  I donít know whether itís apocryphal or not, but therewe are.

JL:  Do you smoke your pipe before a performance,or light up afterwards"

CD: On the way, usually.  I find it has a verybenign influence on the journey to the concert hall.

JL:  Do you think that pipe-smoking has helpedthe creativity of composers or musicians"

CD: I think it gives them time tocontemplate.  Itís seriously difficult to talk much when youíresmoking a pipe because the damned thing goes out all the time. Women leave one alone because they suffocate, so a chapís got timeto himself, and nothingís more important, if youíre a creativeperson.

JL: Has there ever been a special moment in yourlife when everything came together Ė enhanced by the smoking"

CD: Well, thatís very hard to answer.  My life islike a hairbrush Ė itís full of high points Ė and to choose one oranother would be to belittle the rest.  But probably the mostsatisfactory pipe is after one has got married.

JL: What music to youenjoy best sitting back and smoking to"


CD: I wouldalmost certainly choose Sibelius, not that he smoked a pipe, but hewas a shocking consumer of cigars.  And there is a leisure aboutSibeliusís music which entices one to light up before the auralenjoyment.

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