Dennis Russell Davies (born 16 April 1944, Toledo, Ohio, U.S.) is an American conductor and pianist. He studied piano and conducting at the Juilliard School, where he received his doctorate. He is a noted champion of living composers and modern music including Hans Werner Henze, William Bolcom, Lou Harrison, Alan Hovhaness, John Cage, Philip Glass, Giya Kancheli, Arvo Pärt, Virgil Thomson, and Aaron Copland. Davies has commissioned, premiered and recorded numerous pieces by living composers, along with the standard classical works. His recordings of note include Copland's Appalachian Spring with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in 1979, for which he won a Grammy Award; Arvo Pärt Fratres and Miserere; and many of Philip Glass's operas and symphonies, including the 5th symphony, which is dedicated to Davies. Davies premiered Glass's newest symphony at the 2012 New Year's concert in Anton Bruckner Concert Hall in Linz to a standing ovation. Lou Harrison's 3rd Symphony is also dedicated to Davies.
Davies served as Music Director of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra from 1972 to 1980. Together with the composer Francis Thorne he founded the American Composers Orchestra in New York in 1977 and conducted that orchestra until 2002. Davies served as music director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic from 1991 to 1996.
In 1980, he moved to Stuttgart, Germany when he served as General Music Director of the Baden-Württemberg State Opera House from 1980 to 1987. There he premiered two Philip Glass operas along with many standard operas, often in productions with innovative and unusual staging. He has worked with many directors, including Robert Altman in a collaboration on Salome in Hamburg. He has also held permanent posts with the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Beethovenhalle Bonn (1987–95), and the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. Davies has been chief conductor of the Bruckner Orchestra Linz and Linz Opera since 2002, and his current contract in Linz is through 2014.
Davies has also led many festival orchestras, including the Aspen Music Festival, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, which he directed from 1974 to 1990, and the Saratoga Music Festival. He conducted The Flying Dutchman at the Bayreuth Festival, the second American to conduct there and one of the youngest. Davies is a Professor of Orchestral Conducting at the Salzburg Mozarteum.
Davies has had a long-standing association with the jazz pianist Keith Jarrett. He has conducted Jarrett in classical concerto repertoire (including Mozart and Lou Harrison) and has himself performed Jarrett's music for piano and conducted Jarrett's orchestral music (featuring Jarrett as soloist as well as saxophonist Jan Garbarek).
In March 2008, Davies was named the third music director of the Sinfonieorchester Basel, effective with the 2009-10 season, for an initial contract of five years.