He also served as Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. In 1971 he succeeded Georg Solti as principal conductor at the Royal Opera House, where he had given occasional performances before, remaining there until 1986. He became noted for championing the operas of Michael Tippett, giving the premieres of his works The Knot Garden (1970), and The Ice Break (1977). In 1977 he became the first English conductor to appear at the Bayreuth Festival (dedicated to the works of Richard Wagner) where he conducted Tannhäuser. Davis was Principal Guest Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1972 to 1984.
He subsequently was Chief Conductor at the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1983 to 1993. In 1991, Davis was named 'Conductor Laureate' (Ehrendirigent) of the Staatskapelle Dresden, the first conductor in the orchestra's history to hold that title. In 1995, Davis began his tenure as Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO). From 1998-2003, he was Principal Guest Conductor of the New York Philharmonic.
Davis concluded his tenure as the LSO's Principal Conductor on 31 December 2006, and became President of the LSO on 1 January 2007. Maestro Davis is also International Chair of Orchestral Studies at the Royal Academy of Music, London. Davis has developed from the enthusiastic, impulsive firebrand of his early years into a mature master; yet he remains as passionate and involved in his work as ever. He is essentially a visionary and an inspirational conductor, and has often managed to bring those characteristics into the recording studio. His extensive discography ranges from thrilling accounts of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony (with the RPO) and Stravinsky's Oedipus rex (with Sadler’s Wells), both from 1961, through much Mozart and Berlioz (Idomeneo, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte, La clemenza di Tito, Gounod's Roméo et Juliette and Berlioz's Les Troyens and Benvenuto Cellini, are especially notable) to his pioneering Tippett, his impassioned Sibelius and his powerfully individual readings of Britten’s Peter Grimes and The Turn of the Screw. Aside from his championing of Tippett and his interpretations of Mozart, Davis is particularly closely associated with the music of Hector Berlioz, giving many performances of his operas and orchestral works and conducting the first complete set of his works on disc (recorded by Philips), Benjamin Britten, and Jean Sibelius. He has recorded all of the major works of Berlioz and many of the works of Tippett, as well as the complete piano concertos of Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Liszt with Claudio Arrau.
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