Howard Davis: Alberni Quartet leader

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The Independent Online

Howard Davis was an outstanding violinist, musician, quartet leader and teacher. For 38 years, beginning in 1968, he led the highly regarded Alberni Quartet, guiding it on visits to Europe, North and South America, China and the Caribbean. In 1982 he became a professor at the Royal Academy of Music, a position he held until the end of his life. There, his approach to music was inspirational, making him one of Britain's greatest violin teachers, with a talent for helping, moulding and shaping players of all abilities into successful professional musicians.

Davis was born in Bridgetown, Staffordshire in 1940, the son of a cobbler. At nine he took up the violin, and early recognition of his musical talent enabled him to study, first with the eminent quartet leader Ernest Element in Birmingham, and then as a scholarship student at the Royal Academy of Music with Sydney Humphreys and Frederick Grinke.

While there, he collaborated with three fellow students, and in 1961 the Alberni Quartet was born. A Gulbenkian-funded residency in the new town of Harlow enabled the group to establish itself as a new young force in string-quartet playing, and its reputation blossomed with broadcasts, recordings, tours, the commissioning of new works and enormous encouragement from Benjamin Britten.

Even though he was forced to retire from quartet playing because of ill health, Davis continued with immense courage and fortitude to teach with his usual enthusiasm until the very end. That so many of his pupils play still, throughout the world, is to his enormous credit.

Davis also showed prodigious ability as a watercolour artist, although he modestly referred to his paintings as "daubs". I feel fortunate and privileged to have played for more than 30 years with a man who was not only an inspiring musician and leader, but also an encouraging, generous human spirit.

David Smith

Howard Davis, violinist and teacher: born Bridgetown, Staffordshire 9 April 1940; married Virginia Black (two sons); died London 5 February 2008.