The American maestro takes over from Ashkenazy in 2014.

The Sydney Symphony today announced the appointment of David Robertson as its incoming chief conductor and artistic director. The American conductor will take up the post in 2014, when Vladimir Ashkenazy’s four-year term comes to an end.

Sydney Symphony Chairman John Conde says that Robertson was a clear favourite with the musicians from the beginning of the international search for Ashkenazy’s successor, since making his debut with the orchestra in 2003 with the Sibelius Violin Concerto and Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony. The Californian has returned regularly as a guest conductor in the intervening years, giving the Australian premiere of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic Symphony in 2010 and performing Bernstein’s The Age of Anxiety with his wife, pianist Orli Shaham.

At today’s press conference, live via satellite from New York, Robertson said he “fell in love” with the Sydney Symphony early on in his collaboration with the orchestra. “I was amazed at the incredible artistic dynamic they had. They brought energy, poetry, and a great spirit of fun to everything that they were doing. I can’t wait to get started.”

Robertson, 54, brings a fresh, youthful and distinctly American approach to programming. A protégé of Pierre Boulez and former music director of the French composer-conductor’s Ensemble Intercontemporain, he is a champion of 20th-century and new music. It is expected that he will expand Sydney Symphony’s contemporary repertoire during his five-year tenure.

He has also revealed plans to lead an annual opera-in-concert event incorporating multimedia elements, as well as committing to two CD releases each year.

Robertson previously served as music director of the Orchestre National de Lyon and principal guest conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Sydney Symphony’s incoming chief is set to perform two programs with the orchestra this year. in June he conducts Mozart’s Paris Symphony and Prokofiev’s Classical along with the Australian premiere of Steve Mackey’s Piano Concerto Stumble to Grace with Orli Shaham, for whom it was specially written. The second program, in July, will feature Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique and a contemporary work: Thomas Adès’ Violin Concerto with Anthony Marwood.