Conductor signs up to a five-year term from 2014
The Sydney Symphony today announced David Robertson as its chief conductor and artistic director designate. The American conductor, who is currently chief conductor of the St Louis Symphony Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, takes up the five-year engagement from January 2014. He succeeds principal conductor and artistic advisor Vladimir Ashkenazy (who will also continue to visit Sydney every year).
David Robertson made his Australian debut with the Sydney Symphony in 2003 conducting John Adams’s Harmonielehre. He has been a regular visitor ever since, conducting, lecturing and giving the Australian premiere of Adams’s Doctor Atomic Symphony. His next visit to Sydney is in June this year, when he conducts three programmes, including Thomas Adès’s Violin Concerto and Kalkadungu, a work created by Matthew Hindson and didgeridoo virtuoso William Barton.
Speaking to a Sydney audience via video link from New York, where he is conducting Billy Budd at the Metropolitan Opera, Robertson said he had fallen in love with the orchestra on his very first visit, praising them for their flexibility and generosity of spirit.
‘The Sydney Symphony already does so many things right, and that’s a big attraction. [In Australia] there is this incredible drive to do something when it is a good idea, and to do something that hasn’t been done before. It’s the notion of possibility.’
The details of plans for Robertson’s tenure remain under wraps but there are promises of an annual touring programme and co-commissioning of major works with international partners including the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. New initiatives also include an annual opera-in-concert incorporating multimedia, collaborations with other performing arts organisations in Australia and various digital projects, including webcasting and recording.
Robertson joins an orchestra which, unlike many across the globe, is in great shape, artistically and financially. With Ashkenazy at the helm, the orchestra has welcomed a string of high-profile soloists including Lang Lang, Evgeny Kissin and Anne-Sophie Mutter making their Australian debuts, and achieved record ticket sales in 2011. It is hoped that David Robertson will also be able to invite exciting artists to make the long journey to Sydney.
The announcement has been met with enthusiasm. Principal cellist Catherine Hewgill spoke on behalf of the musicians saying Robertson was ‘one of those annoying people who is good at everything,’ and praised his intelligence, musicality and good humour. Meanwhile Australian opera singer Stuart Skelton commented via twitter, saying ‘David Robertson: Chief Conductor from 2014 for a period of five years. * applause *. HUGE news. DRob is the BOMB!’