Past conductors recordings: first, last & best – Letter D

First, Last and one of the best (in my opinion) recordings of main conductors from the past - One page per letter. Corrections are welcome. It is a work in progress


Walter Damrosch (1862-1950)

Having injured his fingers, he had to abandon the piano. He pioneered broadcast symphonic music in the US from 1925 to 1942. He made very few recordings but his Ravel’s Mother Goose is for me unsurpassed (see).


Colin Davis (1927-2013)

First a British clarinetist. He succeeded to Kubelik after Maazel at the Bavarian Radio. Besides the symphonic repertoire, he conducted many operas. 
His first recording was Mozart’s symphonies 29 & 39 in 1960. One of his last, on the London symphony’s label, was a complete set of Nielsen’s symphonies. He was renowned for his Haydn interpretations.

First Best Last

Norma del Mar (1919-1994)
Initially an English horn player. His first recording was Britten’s Noye’s Fludde (1961). His last recording may be musics by Standford & Elgar (1994). He conducted a lot of XXth century Eglish music, Lennox Berkeley for example.

First Best Last

Pierre Dervaux (1917-1992)
Originally a timpanist, he conducted his first concert with the Pasdeloup orchestra in 1945.
His first recording was Poulenc’s piano concerto in 1951. He conducted a lot of French music, as the Requiem by Bachara El-Khoury.

First Best Last

Victor Desarzens (1908-1986)
This Swiss conductor was firstly a violinist, performing in solo, chamber music, and being for a while first violin for the Suisse romande orchestra. His first recording features Russian musics (1951), one of his last Franck Martin’s Le Vin herbé. There is a live album of two Mozart concertos by Clara Haskil.

First Best Last

Roger Desormière (1893-1963)
The first recording of this French conductor was Leo Delibe’s Coppelia (1950. He made some recordings with Czech Philharmonic in his last years.

He will stay famous for his Pelléas et Mélisande interpretation.

First Best Last

Dean Dixon (1915-1976)
The first Negro to lead the New York Philharmonic in 1941. He used to say that as his career progressed, he was first referred as the American Negro conductor, then as the American conductor, then as Dean Dixon, conductor. He conducted American and European orchestras as well.
His first recording was Indian Suite by Edward Macdowell in 1951. One of his last was Weber’s two symphonies in 1976. His clarity can be appreciated with the Nutcracker suite.

First Best Last

Issay Dobrowen (1891-1953)
He was born in Russia and gave his first piano concert at 5. Better known for his operatic interpretations, after some 78s in the 30s, his first LP recording was Brahms’s piano concerto n°2 with Solomon. One of his last recordings was two opera suites by Rimsky-Korsakov (1951). He will stay famous for his Boris Godounov with Boris Christoff.

First Best Last

Antal Dorati (1906-1988)
He studied with Bartok and Kodaly who were rather intimate with his family. For long labelled as a ballet conductor, he had in fact an enormous repertoire as symphonic and operatic. he had the reputation of an effective trainer of orchestras. His first recording was The Beautiful Blue Danube in 1936 with the London Philharmonic orchestra. One of his last recordings was dedicated to his own compositions. Not Dvorak’s most famous piece, but this Czech Suite is a must.

First Best Last


5 thoughts on “Past conductors recordings: first, last & best – Letter D”

  1. Very interesting pages. I certainly agree that the Haydn Symphonies with Colin Davis and Concertgebouw was one of his best series. Antal Dorati was a good conductor, but I would not choose the Dvořák as one of his best efforts. I would say some of his Haydn symphonies or Bartok. For Norman del Mar, his Elgar Enigma Variations on DGG is excellent.

    1. Thank you. Actually I’m not happy with this, it is too short and needs some extension, let’s say it’s a framework and I’m not happy with the overall design either. For Dorati, his Haydn symphonies, despite the orchestra’s quality are for me at the same level as Szell, Jochum, Bernstein or Kubelik in concert, I just love his Dvorak Suite.

  2. Vos choix sont en général excellents, comme le Boris de Dobrowen, ou bien sûr le Pelléas de Désormière ! Par contre, il paraît difficile de ne pas parler des Berlioz de Colin Davis, qui demeurent en bonne partie insurpassés. Je ne suis plus le grand fan de Berlioz que je fus il y a soixante ans (à 16 ans) lorsque je découvris la musique qu’on appelle classique, mais on ne peut l’ignorer, ne serait-ce que pour le duo nocturne de Béatrice et Bénédict…

    1. Je connais assez mal le Berlioz “opératique”, j’avoue n’avoir jamais pu écouter en entier Les Troyens… Pour Davis, je me rappelle un certain dépit quand, après avoir acheté il y a bien 40 ans et écouté de nombreuses fois le Requiem par Davis, j’ai découvert la version Munch…

      1. Je suis obligé d’admettre que dans le Requiem, personne n’a jamais égalé Munch ! Je préfère la première version à la seconde, mal enregistrée par DGG, ce qui n’a étonné personne !

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