Nicholas Carter will lead the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra for his fourth and final year as Principal Conductor in 2019 – but he doesn’t see the program as a farewell. “We have already got some weeks in the calendar for 2020 and onwards, so Adelaide will be my home orchestra at least for the foreseeable future. It’s the [Australian orchestra with which] I have the closest relationship and it’s great that it will continue that way,” says Carter, who is the new Chief Conductor of Stadttheater Klagenfurt and Kärntner Sinfonieorchester in Austria.

Nicholas Carter. Photograph supplied

Running the opera company and orchestra in Austria will naturally take a large amount of Carter’s time, and so pinning down dates for his Adelaide concerts is harder – particularly given the venue situation. “The challenge that Adelaide has is that it doesn’t have its own concert hall so we are beholden to whenever the Town Hall is free and whenever the Festival Theatre is free and [the ASO] finds those dates out so late,” says Carter. “In my opera calendar I basically know where I am going to be up until 2022; usually a year and a half out is when Adelaide can say ‘can you do this week?’ So it makes the logistics of putting programs together into the future a little more difficult.”

Carter hopes that eventually the ASO will have its own concert hall. “[The ASO] is the largest arts organisation in Adelaide but as far as the Adelaide Festival Centre is concerned if they can sell four weeks of Wicked The Musical or Matilda The Musical, or two days for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, understandably they will go for the four weeks – and of course they have to do that. And the Town Hall is a Town Hall for the entire city. So the logical thing to do is to have our own purpose-built concert hall, and lobbying for that has been going on for years and years and years. Every so often we get very hopeful and at the moment I guess we are in a bit of a lull where we are not as hopeful. That will change again and one day it will happen, I am absolutely sure of it; it has to happen. And the orchestra is so good that it deserves its own venue,” says Carter.

“The Town Hall is beautiful but it’s just a little bit too small. It’s perfect if you are doing a Brahms symphony or a Schumann symphony, it’s absolutely gorgeous. We do the odd Mahler symphony and the odd Bruckner symphony, we recently did Rachmaninov, but it just pushes the acoustic of the venue to its extreme, and also there is not enough space on stage. So in that sense the natural growth of the orchestra in terms of repertoire is a little bit impinged upon. It means that we can’t always do the large works which obviously we’d love to be able to do. It’s like you’ve got this Ferrari and you can only drive it at 80 kilometres per hour sometimes – but it’s still a magnificent ride.”

Simone Lamsma. Photograph © Otto van den Toorn

Carter has made sure that the ASO’s 2019 flagship Master Series at the Town Hall features carefully chosen repertoire to suit the space. “There’s a lot of Classical, a lot of late Romantic which is OK, and it’s then just the job of the conductor to make sure that the orchestra plays to the proportions of the Hall,” he says.

As for the concerts Carter himself will conduct next year, he says: “In one sense we didn’t think of the season being particularly valedictorial because I’m coming back the next year. I’m not a dramatic person like that. I just thought the orchestra is in great shape, so let’s do repertoire that I want to perform.”

His first concert in the Master Series, in March, is called From the Mists of Time, and features Dutch violinist Simone Lamsma. “We thought ‘let’s start with some fireworks at the start of the season’ so for the opening program we are doing Elgar’s In the South, the Sibelius Violin Concerto, Ravel’s La Valse and Respighi’s Pines of Rome. I mean who doesn’t want to go to that concert? So that will be fun just to open the season with a bit of panache, a bit of fire,” he says.

In June, Carter conducts Australian pianist Jayson Gillham performing Beethoven’s Piano Concertos Nos 1 – 5  in four concerts over two weeks at Elder Hall. ABC Classic FM will record them all. It will be the first time Carter and Gillham have worked together.

Jayson Gillham. Photograph supplied

“Jayson performed with the Adelaide Symphony two years ago – Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 3 with Jeffrey Tate and it just went so well. He is a pianist whose career is really starting to take off and this is repertoire that really seems to suit him,” says Carter. “And we are grateful to him, because I think ABC Classic FM said, ‘let’s record the concertos’ and he said ‘I want to do it with the Adelaide Symphony and [Nicholas Carter]’. I’ve not worked with him but I met him in Berlin a couple of years ago. We sat down and had a meal and spoke about all and sundry and just got on like a house on fire so it’s great that he said ‘I want to do it with you’; it’s the perfect marriage.” Around the Beethoven, Carter has programmed music by Mozart, Haydn, Schoenberg, Brahms and Schubert.

In July, Carter conducts his final concert as ASO Principal Conductor. Called Faith & Beauty, it features the Dvořák Violin Concerto with Grace Clifford (the ASO’s Emerging Artist-in-Association) and Bruckner’s Symphony No 5. “Having lived in Germany for the last eight or nine years, Germanic repertoire is very special to me and we did the Bruckner Fourth Symphony last year. There is something so momentous about the Fifth Symphony and beautifully cumulative about it that it seemed to be the way to end my official tenure as Principal Conductor. In each of the movements there is a beautiful ambiguity that combines and coaleses into this magnificent finale for the last five minutes of the symphony so we thought ‘this seems the way to go about it and go out with a bit of a splash even though it is halfway through the year’.”

Zukerman Trio. Photograph © Nicolas Brodard

The 2019 season includes two world premieres. In June, in a concert called Winter Fire, directed by violinist Pinchas Zukerman (the ASO’s Artist-in-Association), Zukerman and cellist Amanda Forsythe will perform the world premiere of a specially composed Double Concerto written by Avner Dorman to celebrate Zukerman’s 70th birthday. The work is a co-commission between the ASO, Boston Symphony Orchestra and National Arts Centre, Ottawa. Benjamin Northey conducts.

“We have been so lucky to have [Zukerman] keen to spend time in Adelaide. He really loves working with orchestra and the orchestra loves working with him, and having the ability to do chamber music with him. The world premiere of a piece written especially for him is particularly special,” says Carter.

In September a concert called New Worlds will feature the world premiere of a new work by Cathy Milliken, the ASO’s Composer-in-Association, along with the Schumann Violin Concerto and Dvořák’s Symphony No 9, From the New World, conducted by Douglas Boyd. “There are some fascinating world premieres happening in Adelaide and some contemporary music. Obviously we’d love to do a lot more but I think we’ve got a good balance happening at the moment. Cathy Milliken is really special and again it seems to be the right mix for Adelaide and the orchestra. It’s all about balancing the ambitions of the orchestra, its Principal Conductor, and its audiences, and coming up with a season that works for as many people as possible.”

Other concerts in the Master Series feature Bach’s St John Passion conducted by Stephen Layton. Principal Guest Conductor Mark Wigglesworth leads the orchestra for Mahler’s Symphony No 9 and Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto with Austrian clarinetist Andreas Ottensamer, the principal clarinetist of the Berlin Philharmonic. Wigglesworth also conducts Vaughan Williams’s Symphony No 5 and the Brahms Piano Concerto No 2 with Stephen Hough, as well as a concert featuring Wagner’s “Fairy” Overture written when he was just 20, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Act II, and Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante. Finnish-Ukrainian conductor Dalia Stasevska conducts Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances and Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G with French-Canadian pianist Louis Lortie. Zukerman also directs and plays violin in a concert featuring Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No 5 and Elgar’s Enigma Variations.

Benjamin Northey will conduct the Season Opening Gala at the Festival Theatre on February 2, featuring Sibelius’s Finlandia, Grieg’s Piano Concerto with Simon Tedeschi, and Holst’s The Planets, while the Chinese New Year Concert on February 10 will be conducted by Dane Lam with Li-Wei Qin on cello.

Among other special events, the ASO will collaborate with the Adelaide Festival, the State Opera of South Australia and the Adelaide Festival Centre, on Barrie Kosky and Suzanne Andrade’s renowned production of The Magic Flute, which plays as a centrepiece of the Adelaide Festival, just as they played in the pit to great acclaim for Hamlet at this year’s Festival.


For a 2019 brochure click HERE

Limelight, Australia's Classical Music and Arts Magazine