What led you to commission an oboe concerto from Nigel Westlake?
The orchestra had worked with Nigel on a number of occasions, so there was already that nice relationship. When Jane Mathews gave us some money to commission a piece for Diana Doherty, Diana and Nigel, who had already great mutual admiration, spent time together so the concerto was really tailor made. She came over and he said just noodle around and let me hear things. Out of that came this extraordinary piece that is a virtuoso catalogue of what the oboe can do.
Diana Doherty, David Robertson and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Photo © Daniela Testa
How big a challenge is the solo part?
Enormous! Just enormous. And one of the things that completely blew me away at the first rehearsal was that she had the entire thing from memory. It literally seemed to grow organically from her as a person as we were putting it together. I thought the premiere was so wonderful that I immediately looked to perform it again in Beijing where it was a complete showstopper. It is a way of saying, “Look, here’s some Australian music....