The SSO Chief Conductor and Artistic Director is to stay through 2019, and has revealed a little of his 2018 programme.

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra has announced that David Robertson has extended his five-year contract as Chief Conductor and Artistic Director by an additional year, taking his tenure to the end of 2019.

“This will round out my time leading this great institution to six years, ending at the conclusion of 2019; although given my love of the SSO, it’s very likely you will see me return to the podium as guest conductor for years to come,” said Robertson in a statement.

David Robertson. Photograph © Jay Fram

The SSO’s Managing Director Rory Jeffes said that Robertson has been “an inspiring leader” since taking up his position with the Orchestra in 2014. “As our artistic leader his ambitious projects have highlighted the virtuosity of our ensemble and helped to grow internationally the profile of the SSO and indeed of Sydney as a cultural destination,” said Jeffes.

At a small press conference, Robertson discussed how much he has enjoyed leading the SSO, and revealed a little of the Orchestra’s 2018 season, to be announced on August 10, including a Brahms mini-festival and concerts with flamenco guitarist Juan Carmona.

Citing the SSO’s ‘operas in concert’ project, including the recent performance of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande conducted by Charles Dutoit, Robertson praised the versatility of the musicians saying: “When you think back to things like The Flying Dutchman or Tristan and Isolde or Elektra or Porgy and Bess [you] see the breadth that the Orchestra can actually deliver and the way in which they can embrace so many styles…. What we’ve accomplished is stellar and I couldn’t be more excited to come into the Opera House every chance I get.”

That versatility, and the way Robertson has been able to highlight certain members of the orchestra has, he said, also made it possible to present various mini festivals – “whether it’s the Beethoven Piano Concertos with Emanuel Ax, the three Stravinsky ballets or the Schumann symphony cycle where any other orchestra would break out in some sort of sweat, if not hives, when they look at all four Schumann symphonies within one week.”

The Brahms mini-festival will take place over two weeks in August/September 2018 and will include Brahms’ Symphony No 4, his Piano Concerto No 1 with Australian pianist Alexander Gayrylyuk, and his Double Concerto with SSO cellist Umberto Clerici and violinist Andrew Haveron.

Robertson will also conduct Juan Carmona’s Sinfonia Flamenca in September. Robertson met Carmona while working in France and describes the French flamenco guitarist as “the crown prince of flamenco royalty”. Carmona will bring his Septet to Sydney for the concert.

“What is wonderful is that rather than an orchestra simply playing minims in the background, the orchestra actually gets to interact in a very dynamic and exciting way with the flamenco artists on stage,” said Robertson. “Believe me, this is not a programme that I could bring to any of the big five orchestras in the United States…This is the thing that is so exciting about having an orchestra that has this multi-disciplinary approach.”

David Robertson with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Photograph © Ken Butt

In October this year, the SSO is returning to China to perform in Beijing and Shanghai. In November 2018, it will go to Europe “for a very large tour covering all of the major centres,” said Robertson.

The tour repertoire will include Beethoven’s Seventh and Mahler’s Fifth symphonies, as well as Wings of Angels by the Orchestra’s Artist-in-Residence Brett Dean. The same repertoire will be performed for Sydney audiences across five farewell concerts before the Orchestra flies to Europe.

Robertson said that he believes the programme will “show how the Orchestra is really being counted among the best in the world.”

“It’s my enormous pleasure to continue as Artistic Director for another season,” said the American conductor in conclusion.

“I love the way Sydney has the feeling of being a community but at the same time is a major world city. For me, this puts Sydney among a handful of cities where it is possible to realise projects that are difficult to accomplish anywhere else. Combined with the virtuosity and ambitions of the musicians of the SSO, this makes the job of Chief Conductor and Artistic Director such a joy!”

The SSO’s 2018 season will be revealed on August 10