In announcing its 2020 season, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra has revealed that it will return to its previous home, the Sydney Town Hall. It will take up residence there for the next two years as the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall undergoes refurbishment. The Town Hall was the SSO’s main performance venue from 1932 to 1973 and was host to now Conductor-Laureate Vladimir Ashkenazy’s early performances with the orchestra as a pianist.
Marin Alsop. Photo © Adriane White
2020 also marks the first season without David Robertson at the helm, whose six-year tenure as Chief Conductor and Artistic Director concludes at the end of this year. But audiences won’t have to wait long for his return – he leads Brahms’ A German Requiem and all-Mendelssohn program featuring debuting violinist Augustin Hadelich in July.
While an international search for his replacement continues, Ashkenazy, Principal Guest Conductor Donald Runnicles, and Simone Young will return for a series of exciting engagements, continuing to shepherd the SSO through this period of transition. Highlights include Ashkenazy’s Northern Lights Festival, a celebration of Grieg and Sibelius; Runnicles conducting Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and Mahler Four; and the continuation of Young’s Visions of Vienna Project. They will be joined by American conductor Marin Alsop, who will conduct a new setting of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony as part of a collaboration with leading orchestras around the world called A Global Ode to Joy, marking the composer’s 250th birthday. Alsop will also work closely with Indigenous representatives to incorporate traditional music as part of the performance. Other conductors making their SSO debuts include David Stern, Pietari Inkinen, Fabien Gabel, Benjamin Bayl and Jun Märkl.
Christian Tetzlaff. Photo © Giorgia Bertazzi
2020 also features the return of German violinist Christian Tetzlaff, who last appeared with the SSO in 2016. He will play Bach’s complete Sonatas and Partitas as well as the Brahms Violin Concerto. Other season highlights include the continuation of the International Pianists in Recital Series, featuring Elisabeth Leonskaja, Jonathan Biss, Céderic Tiberghien and the debut of 17-year-old American Lauren Zhang, winner of the 2018 BBC Young Musician Award. Erin Helyard will conduct and play Bach’s complete Brandenburg concertos with members of the Sydney Symphony.
Five highlights of the 2020 season
Missa Solemnis (March 18 – 21)
The Beethoven celebrations begin with Donald Runnicles conducting the monumental Missa Solemnis. He’s joined by soprano Siobhan Stagg, mezzo-soprano Vasilisa Berzhanskaya, tenor Samuel Sakker, bass Derek Welton and the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs for one of the masterpieces of the repertoire.
David Robertson. Photo © Jay Fram
A German Requiem (July 16 – 18)
David Robertson returns to to conduct Brahms’ staggering choral work, A German Requiem, in July. Soloists include rising star soprano Cleo-Lee McGowan, who made her SSO debut in this year’s Peter Grimes, and acclaimed baritone Michael Honeyman. They will be joined by the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs.
A Global Ode to Joy (August 7 – 9)
The esteemed American conductor Marin Alsop – Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra, and chief conductor designate of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra – returns to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra with an international project celebrating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. A Global Ode to Joy sees Alsop conduct Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in five continents, reimagining the piece for each location. In Australia, Alsop and the SSO will collaborate with Indigenous representatives to incorporate the music of First Nations.
Simone Young. Photo © Monika Rittershaus
Simone Young conducts Beethoven (July 29 – August 1)
Simone Young, Limelight’s 2018 Australian Artist of the Year: Critics’ Choice, will once again demonstrate her innate gift for the Viennese masters when she tackles Beethoven’s Symphony No 7 in July. Also on the program is Brett Dean’s Testament, a fascinating piece inspired by Beethoven’s famous Heiligenstadt Testament, in which the composer described his distress in the face of his deteriorating hearing.
Christian Tetzlaff performs Bach (November 22)
Fans of Christian Tetzlaff will know that Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas are something of a calling card for the German violinist. He’s recorded them three times, his latest effort demonstrating “the skill of a master violinist on a roll” (Gramophone). He delivers his exquisite interpretation of these masterworks in a one-night only concert in November.