Lives Remembered: Richard Beattie Davis
Saturday 27 September 2008
The Life of my husband Richard Beattie Davis, who died on 6 September aged 86, fell into three sections. He served in the 8th Army Tank Brigade during the Second World War; he worked for the estate agents Knight Frank & Rutley for 33 years; and over a period of nearly 50 years his music publications were many and varied, culminating in this year's The Beauty of Belaieff, the definitive study of the Russian music publisher, Mitrofan Petrovich Belaieff. On seeing the book, the conductor Vladimir Jurowski wrote that he wanted to express his gratitude for what Davis had done for Russian music.
Richard Beattie Davis was born in Croydon on 28 August 1922. He attended Weymouth College before volunteering for service in 1942. He joined the Border Regiment as a tank commander and was posted to Tunisia, where he took part in the North Africa campaign. In 1944 the 21st Tank Brigade was shipped to Naples, where Davis became a liaison officer. Any spare time was spent in dusty music shops hunting out scores. Later he was appointed Intelligence Officer of 7th Armoured Brigade, largely because of his command of Italian and German.
During this time he was in charge of a camp for surrendered enemy personnel and became friendly with a German violinist in the string quartet that performed there. They were playing from unpublished Haydn Minuets, composed in 1776, copies of which they had rescued from a blitzed library in Berlin. Davis requested copies and saw them safely home to England and a performance on Radio 3, securing their place in the Haydn oeuvre.
Demobilised with the rank of Captain, Davis joined Knight, Frank & Rutley in 1948. Having qualified as a chartered surveyor, he went on to head the firm's Commercial Valuation Department. He became a partner in 1963 and travelled all over the world on their behalf, including a six-month valuation project in Nigeria. During this time he taught himself Russian and had several articles published in the Music Review.
Davis married Elvira Beattie in 1961 and had one son. Elvie died in 1974 and in 1983 he married the present writer in the Florida Everglades. I relinquished my dancing school in Boynton and took up residence in Richard's Oast house in Sandhurst, Kent. It soon became a hub of musical activity.
Davis was a keen collector of first and early editions of Western and Russian music. He wrote articles on Henselt, Hummel, Balakirev, Lyapunov and Belaieff, with exhibitions and talks in London, Germany and Florida. He contributed works listings for other Russian composers, together with sleeve notes for CDs of Lyapunov, Balakirev, Henselt, Rachmaninov and Scriabin. He was, for many years, on the governing board of the Purcell School of Music, while in the 1950s he sang under John Minchington and with Al Cuieno in the London Bach Group and in the 1960s was a founding member of the Haydn Opera Society. He also contributed articles for the second edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.
In 2002 he was elected honorary president of the Internationale Adolph-Henselt-Gesellschaft (Schwabach, Germany) to whom he donated his Henselt letters, first editions and study material.
From the 1980s Davis divided his time between Kent and Florida, and in 1984 he established the Richard Beattie Music Collection at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton. He endowed it with all his Beethoven first editions, his collection of Hummel, his chamber collection, most of which featured the piano – which he played with great facility – and many other works. However, his greatest gift was his vast collection of first editions of Russian scores, many featuring exceedingly beautiful title pages. The Beauty of Belaieff is based on this collection – of which Elena Sorokina, the pianist and vice-president of the Moscow Conservatory, said: "It has no comparisons anywhere in the world, including Russia."
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