Oliver Davies - pianist and musicologist

We are saddened by the sudden death from cancer on 2 July 2020 of the pianist and musicologist Oliver Davies.

In 1970, as Music Librarian of the Royal College of Music, Davies was responsible for admitting O’Neill’s manuscripts to the College at a time when few institutions were interested in this era of English music. Later, as Curator of Portraits and Performance History, he negotiated the purchase for the College of the only known portrait of O’Neill by van Ruith.

Davies continued to support the cause of O’Neill’s music, organising an exhibition in the RCM entrance hall to mark his centenary in 1975, and where appropriate, including works by O’Neill in his recitals and concerts, especially those related to the Frankfurt Group of composers and their associates. In 1991, with the composer’s granddaughter, he gave a Delius Society lecture-recital on Norman O’Neill and his Friends. Davies privately recorded a number of O’Neill pieces including a performance with the distinguished pianist Esther Fisher, of O’Neill’s duet for two pianos, Variations on an Irish Theme.

Davies had an affinity with the music and history of O’Neill’s extended family which included the composer Dr William Horsley and his children (who were close friends of Mendelssohn) and of O’Neill’s great grandfather the composer and musicologist, Dr John Wall Callcott, his great uncle the artist Sir Augustus Wall Callcott, and his father, the artist G. B. O’Neill.

Katherine Jessel

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