10 Oct 2017

15 minutes with David Robertson

On the day it was announced that David Robertson’s contract was being extended to the end of 2019, he spoke to us about programming, plans and favourite places.

It’s rare for an orchestra to have such a diversity of programming as the SSO, says chief conductor and artistic director David Robertson, “and I think that’s a little sad”. To limit the repertoire, he says, “would be a little like a museum deciding only to show a few works of its catalogue”. In his time with SSO, he’s been covering as broad a range as possible, in a variety of settings.

“Sometimes it’s helpful to find a venue that’s without particular expectations,” he says. “Carriageworks is very much an anything-goes venue that allows us to explore things in that adventurous way, without any preconceptions.”

But even in the Concert Hall, he’s found it possible to confound expectations; two upcoming concerts are prime examples of his thoughtful programming. Both celebrate the voice “and the amazing things composers can do when they have words”, and within the two, “we cover about 250 years of music”.

Bluebeard's Castle

29 Nov-2 Dec 2017

Bluebeard's Castle

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In the first, he pairs Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the Australian premiere of Peter Eötvös’s Halleluja – Oratorium balbulum, written in 2015.  “Eötvös’s work is both humorous and serious, which made me think about the Walton, which has that same combination of serious ideas about history, yet an entertaining way of telling the story. Both explore the sense of human excess in a fascinating way.”

In the second, Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle is played alongside a Bach cantata and Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody. “Musically, the sense of contemplation that Bach and Brahms and Bartók all express through the voice is the reason they’re put together in the same program.”

As far as programming over the next two years goes, expect a few surprises. “The quality of the orchestra continues to improve; it’s at a pretty impressive level, so I’ll see if I can continue to push it even further than I have already.”

See David Robertson conduct Belshazzar's Feast and Bluebeard's Castle with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra this November and December.

15 minutes with David Robertson