26 JUL 2017

A letter to the SSO family by David Robertson

Our Chief Conductor and Artistic Director extends his tenure until the end of 2019.


I love the way Sydney has the feeling of being a community but at the same time is a major world city. There are very few places in the world that have such a strong local flavour as well as a real awareness of the rest of the world. For me, that puts Sydney among a handful of cities where it is possible to realise projects that are difficult to accomplish anywhere else. Combined with the virtuosity and ambition of the musicians of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, this makes the job of Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the SSO such a joy!

Together with the orchestra, I am excited to announce a one-year extension of my tenure. This will round out my time leading this great institution to six years, ending at the conclusion of 2019; although given my love of the SSO, it’s very likely you will see me return to the podium as a guest conductor every chance I get!

With this renewed commitment, I’m feeling reflective (and extremely proud) of where we have been and incredibly excited about where we are going...

During my three-and-a-half years here, one of the things I have become aware of is that it is impossible to generalise about the remarkable diversity that makes up our Sydney audience. I’m continually surprised and delighted by comments and observations from people who don’t fit the worldwide stereotype of the classical music lover. It is something I find both invigorating and extremely inspiring. This openness makes me want to see what exciting adventures we can have in Sydney at each and every concert.

I remember remarking back at the start of my tenure in 2014 that the SSO has the ambition to do things that have never been done before. When I look at the Operas in Concert, the memories of The Flying Dutchman, Elektra, Tristan und Isolde or Porgy and Bess fill me with happiness. I love how we have mounted festivals where we engage intensively with a particular composer, such as Beethoven’s piano concertos with Emanuel Ax, the Schumann symphonies or Stravinsky’s ballets. The world-class soloists who have joined us (and some of them more than once): Anne-Sophie Mutter, Lang Lang, Daniil Trifonov, Gil Shaham, Yefim Bronfman, Maxim Vengerov, Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center, Christian Tetzlaff and Audra McDonald, combined with the incredible solo performances of our own Andrew Haveron, Diana Doherty or Umberto Clerici; all of this leaves me awe-struck at the richness of our musical offerings!

The inspiration continues with what we have in store for you in 2018. We will unveil our new season on 10 August, but I want to give you a sneak peek of some of my personal favourites…

In August 2018 we’ll be holding a Brahms mini-festival across two weeks. Brahms writes music with the idea of individual musicians in mind, so being able to present his music in the form of a solo piano concerto, a solo double concerto, and then the large-scale 'chamber music' that is his Fourth Symphony is a wonderful way of engaging with this composer.

We will also be bringing a real flamenco experience to the Sydney Opera House with the prodigious talents of guitarist Juan Carmona, whom I have known and worked with for many years (as an amateur guitarist myself, my admiration for him knows no bounds!) This is a man whose pedigree is that of royalty in the flamenco tradition and there is nothing on the guitar that he cannot play, often with such ease and virtuosity that you will have to pick your jaw up off the floor! Our Sinfonia Flamenca program will combine real flamenco tradition with spectacular writing for the orchestra in an experience unlike any other.

At the close of our 2018 season, I’m excited to announce that the SSO will undertake a major European tour. Our tour repertoire will highlight the virtuosity as well as the musical depth of this ensemble – whether in core works like Beethoven’s Seventh and Mahler’s Fifth symphonies, or presenting Australia’s most recognised composer, and our Artist in Residence Brett Dean with a piece he wrote for us, the beautiful Engelsflügel (Wings of Angels). Naturally, we want to share the excitement of these programs’ power, grace and energy with some highlights for our Sydney family before we take off. It will be so wonderful to party with you before we head to Kingsford Smith!

This is just a taste of what you can expect in 2018. Stay tuned for its full unveiling on Thursday 10 August.

I am so grateful to the musicians of the SSO and our Sydney community for welcoming me to the podium as Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of this great orchestra for another year. And I look forward to all of the rich musical experiences we will share together between now and the end of 2019.

Celebrate the extension of David Robertson’s tenure by joining him and the SSO for Ravishing Ravel at the Sydney Opera House on 27–29 July. Tickets available HERE.

Image: David Robertson and Concertmaster Andrew Haveron. Credit Daniela Testa.