Dvora Lewis

Wit, love, drama and spice of LSO’s legendary PR manager


There are some people you think will go on forever. Dvora Lewis, who passed away at the age of 79, was one of them. When she retired from managing the PR for the London Symphony Orchestra five years ago — after 37 years — the LSO threw a farewell concert for her with star violinist Joshua Bell performing with the orchestra, and a grand reception afterwards.

It was a large and lavish goodbye to a woman whose brilliance at communications had redefined the orchestra’s status in the world; Sir Colin Davis, Valery Gergiev, and before them, the likes of Leonard Bernstein and André Previn, had all benefitted from Dvora Lewis’ gifts.

Dvora Lewis arrived in London at the age of three, her parents Herman and Ethel Michelson having fled their home-town of Riga, Latvia from Nazi persecution. Education at St Paul’s School for Girls and later, University College, London (UCL) led to an 11-year stint in New York, working in the broadcast department of the British information services. In 1970, she moved back to London and set up what would become a classical music PR empire, the first of its kind, at her home in Hampstead. Her office, though it grew with a team of bright and buzzing assistants, continued to remain at her Hampstead home; journalists like me were invited to breakfast or lunch at Carluccio’s, around the corner to her house.

Lunch with Dvora was always a memorable affair. You would learn about the time she worked with Lenny Bernstein or Daniel Barenboim, or about leading the high life in New York in the 1960s until a Mr Michael Lewis, from St John’s Wood, persuaded her to come back and be his wife, at the grand old age of 34, two months after their first date. (Dvora had already broken off two engagements). “Mr Lewis”, as she always fondly referred to him, accompanied Dvora to every concert and work trip she made, while his wife made headlines around the world – or persuaded journalists to do so.

I made a number of them. It was almost impossible not to when you had been entertained with the wit, the drama, the spice, and the absolute love that Dvora had for her subjects.

When Dvora flew me to Israel to observe the conductor Zubin Mehta working with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra on their 75th birthday, she was thrilled with the result: I had written about the IPO, Zubin Mehta and Israel in glowing terms. Dvora was excited that The Independent had carried a double page spread raving about the wonders of Israel.

At Dvora’s virtual shiva I discovered there were hundreds of people who, like me, were smitten by Dvora. For former LSO managing director, Sir Clive Gillinson, now the artistic director of Carnegie Hall, she was “one of the most special people I’ve known in my entire life. She had a truly remarkable gift for friendship. She was the supreme queen of her profession in the UK”.

The LSO’s current chief, Kathryn McDowell, described Dvora as “a trailblazer” and “a role model to so many women in the arts, striking a work-family balance long before anyone else was talking about it”. Dvora’s chicken soup was legendary and star musicians regularly joined the Lewis family for Shabbat dinner in Hampstead; it was part of their itinerary. McDowell added that Dvora’s quiet generosity had ensured that, when the LSO cut their ‘flowers’ budget during tough times in the 80s, Dvora stepped in, ensuring all performers received flowers for the next two decades.

Perhaps uniquely for a PR professional, Dvora managed to make both journalist and artist feel wonderful and talented. We lapped up her tales and treasured the Jewish mother at her core; which meant that most conversations ended with a mention that she was off to see her boyfriend later that day — a new grandson.

Dvora leaves behind her husband Michael, daughters Ray and Xenia and grandchildren Hannah, Noah and Alfie. “We miss her,” said Michael. “We loved her. We love her,” he added, simply.

Nicola Christie

Dvora Lewis: born April 20, 1936.
Died November 17, 2020

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