Sir Andrew Davis appointed Melbourne Symphony Orchestra chief conductor

Charlotte Smith18th Jun 2012
Sir Andrew Davis becomes the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra's new chief conductor Sir Andrew Davis becomes the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra's new chief conductor in 2013 (photo: Dario Acosta)

The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra today announced the appointment of world-renowned UK conductor Sir Andrew Davis as its new chief conductor and artistic director. Sir Andrew takes up the position for four years, starting in January 2013.

On the phone from Melbourne, where he is about to begin rehearsals, the conductor spoke glowingly about the Melbourne musicians:

‘I love the way they make music. I love their commitment, their love for the music. I’ve always said that musicians are incredibly lucky to do what we do for a living. It’s a great privilege. This orchestra shares that sense, individually and collectively, so I’m looking forward to some fantastic music making together.’

Davis currently holds the position of music director of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and is conductor laureate of the Toronto Symphony and the BBC Symphony. He first appeared with the MSO in 2009 and has since made annual visits to Melbourne. He takes the orchestra on tour to Sydney next week performing Wagner and Strauss with soprano Deborah Voigt.

The conductor will only spend four weeks on the ground in Melbourne in 2013, but this increases to six weeks in 2014, then eight weeks a year in 2015 and 2016. While plans for his tenure are still under wraps, Sir Andrew says he is looking forward to balancing his busy opera schedule with more orchestral repertoire. Elgar, Berlioz, Strauss and a Mahler Cycle are in the pipeline, and later this year Chandos will record the MSO, under the baton of Davis, for the final disk in its Percy Grainger series.

The prestigious appointment is a triumph but also a relief for Australia’s second largest orchestra, which has been without a chief conductor since 2009, when Oleg Caetani left the orchestra under a cloud.

‘Not having a chief conductor for an extended period of time is a strain on a symphony orchestra,’ says Brett Kelly, principal trombonist of the MSO since 1981. ‘Having Sir Andrew as our new chief conductor galvanises not just the individual musicians but the whole management and the wider ecosystem in which the orchestra operates.’

He continues: ‘Sir Andrew has that wonderful mixture of sophistication and urbanity, yet he’s quite cheeky, a bit irreverent, and still very serious. In a way, I think it’s how we see ourselves. So yes, it is a very nice fit.’

The MSO has also announced the appointment of 27-year-old Venezuelan conductor Diego Matheuz as its principal guest conductor. He succeeds the current principal guest conductor Tadaaki Otaka, who will continue his relationship with the orchestra.

Matheuz is a graduate of the Venezuelan El Sistema programme and made his conducting debut with Claudio Abbado’s Orchestra Mozart in Bologna in October 2008. He made an explosive debut in Melbourne in February 2012, conducting the annual open-air concerts at the Myer Music Bowl. This appointment will bring him back to Melbourne for three weeks a year until 2015.

Harriet Cunningham

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