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Chief Conductor Simone Young Extends Contract to End of 2026

27 February, 2024

The Sydney Symphony has announced that Simone Young’s contract as Chief Conductor has been extended by two years until the end of 2026. Here Young looks back on her decades-long relationship with the Orchestra, and forward to what is to come.

Simone Young’s first two seasons as Chief Conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra have been marked by acclaimed performances and landmark events.

From the reopening of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall with Mahler’s Second Symphony and William Barton’s Of the Earth to the launch of the Orchestra’s four-year Ring Cycle, from concerts celebrating Australian composer Ross Edwards’ 80th birthday to the Australian premiere of John Williams’ Violin Concerto No.2 with superstar German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, this has been a period of extraordinary richness for the Orchestra and for Sydney.

Excitingly, this richness is set to continue for a further two years: today the Sydney Symphony announced the extension of Young’s tenure as Chief Conductor until the end of 2026.

Coming in the same week as the Orchestra’s 2024 Season Opening Gala, this announcement has offered Young a chance to reflect on the triumphs of the recent past but also on the future, and the trajectory that the Sydney Symphony is on as it heads towards its centenary in 2032.

‘I’m very happy with where we have got to in these couple of years,’ says Young with a smile. ‘I feel like we're building something.’

Simone Young

There is perhaps nobody better placed to speak of the growth and development of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra than Simone Young. She first conducted the Orchestra nearly 30 years ago, but her relationship with the Orchestra goes back many decades, to when she was a young Sydney girl listening to the Orchestra and falling in love with music. As only the third Australian Chief Conductor in the Sydney Symphony’s history and only the second who grew up in Sydney, Young has a unique perspective on not only the past, but also on what the future might hold.

‘This orchestra means a huge amount to me,’ says Young. ‘It was the orchestra I then grew up with as my passion for music developed. It was the orchestra for which I queued up for hours to get standing room tickets. It was the orchestra through which I discovered a huge amount of repertoire for the first time – and that stays with you.

‘What I have always loved about this orchestra is its extraordinary versatility. There are some orchestras where you say, “Oh, they sound great playing Russian music,” or “they sound fantastic in the late Romantic music.” This orchestra has always had a huge breadth of repertoire and a breadth of brilliance.’

It’s not just the versatility of the Orchestra that excites Young, but also the openness of Sydney audiences to experience music beyond the core repertoire.

‘Our audiences have shown over these past two years that they have faith in the orchestra, they have faith in me, they have faith in the venue, and they're ready to be excited and inspired by what we have to offer,’ says Young. ‘And if you have an audience come in with that kind of attitude, you know, that's fifty per cent of your work done.’

That relationship between orchestra and audience is one of the things that most animates Young, and one of the things that most excites her about Sydney.

‘This is my home city,’ says Young. ‘There's no city in the world where I feel quite as at home or as anchored as I do when I come home to Sydney. And to use a terribly cliched and corny expression, being on the podium of the Sydney Symphony is my happy place.

‘That sense of belonging is incredibly important to me. And I think audiences can sense that – not just the connection between me and the Orchestra, but between the Orchestra and Sydney.

‘I think Sydney audiences really identify with the Orchestra and identify with players within the Orchestra. I'm often stopped at stage door and asked, “Why wasn’t so-and-so playing this week, where are they?” Or, “That new person was fabulous, who are they?”

‘I love that. I love that curiosity, and the connection between the orchestra and its city is so important. A city has to identify with its orchestra and the orchestra has to identify with its city. They are a unity. Unity means a coming together, a harmony, and that again really only happens in the live experience.’

And it’s the live experience that remains paramount for Young, the power and excitement that you can only experience in the concert hall.

‘The live experience is something else,’ says Young. ‘There is a physical response to the sound waves, the vibrations, the impact of that music – whether it's super quiet, or super loud, or anything in between – to seeing a great artist, and there are only a few metres between you and that artist. That physical proximity really changes the impact of the music.

‘The live experience is different, and powerful – and can be life changing.’

As we open our 2024 Season, we look forward with great excitement to two more years of powerful – and even life-changing – live experiences with Simone Young as Chief Conductor.

Simone Young

2024 offers a number of opportunities to hear Young conduct the Sydney Symphony in repertoire that she has made her speciality throughout her glittering career. Our Season Opening Gala features Mahler’s Fifth Symphony as well as the Australian premiere of a new violin concerto by rising star French composer Camille Pépin, with Renaud Capuçon as soloist; there follows a journey into the heart of the Romantic era with the second symphonies by Robert Schumann and Beethoven, paired with the Three Gymnopédies by Australian composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks; and in March, the Sydney premiere of Arnold Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder, a vast, richly Romantic sound world requiring 140 musicians and 285 choristers.

In August there is the irresistible combination of Felix Mendelssohn’s exquisite Violin Concerto performed by the superb violinist Augustin Hadelich, coupled with Anton Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony, ‘a cathedral of sound’, as we celebrate 200 years since his birth. And across two weeks in November, Young will lead the Orchestra in Mozart’s mighty final symphony as well as works by JS Bach and his son Carl Philipp Emanuel, before the powerful second instalment in our Ring Cycle: Die Walküre.