The COVID-19 pandemic put paid to most of the celebrations planned for Beethoven’s 250th birthday last year, but the Sydney Symphony Orchestra was keen not to let the occasion go entirely unmarked, devoting the second program on its 2021 season in the Sydney Town Hall exclusively to the composer’s music, led by Chief Conductor Designate Simone Young.

Simone Young and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra Simone Young and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Photo © Nic Walker

Beethoven’s LeonoreOverture No 3 was one of four overtures the composer wrote for his opera Fidelio– initially called Leonore– and it’s by far the most popular in the concert hall for its symphonic scope and drama. While there were a couple of ragged entries in the wind section – the distance between the musicians on the stage no doubt compounding the challenges of Beethoven’s exposed, precision entries – the string sound was gorgeous. The duetting lines between Joshua Batty’s flute and Diana Doherty’s oboe, and the playful chase between flute and Matthew Wilkie’s nimble bassoon, were particular highlights. As was the offstage...