The search is over – the Sydney Symphony Orchestra has announced that Australian-born conductor Simone Young AM will be the Orchestra’s Chief Conductor from 2022.
The internationally lauded Young will be the first Australian Chief Conductor since 1991, and the third Australian to take on the prestigious role in the Orchestra’s 87 year history. She succeeds American conductor David Robertson and before him Vladimir Ashkenazy in the role. She is presently Principal Guest Conductor of the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra in Switzerland.
Young’s debut as Chief Conductor in 2022 will coincide with the newly re-opened Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, following its refurbishment during 2020 and 2021. She will lead the Orchestra on its return to the Concert Hall, its iconic home since 1973 and work with the orchestra to shape its programme for this return season.
Commenting on her appointment, Simone Young observed “I am thrilled to take up this role with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. As an Orchestra, it is amongst the world’s finest. Since my first appearances with the Sydney Symphony 23 years ago, I have witnessed its extraordinary artistic growth. It is a virtuosic ensemble and it is orchestra of which every Australian can be proud. It is an orchestra I know and love. I grew up with the Sydney Symphony and its performances provided me with a rich experience of music which I was able to take with me from my high school days to the moment I first stepped on a podium. The Orchestra continues to inspire me.”
Simone Young studied piano and composition at the Conservatorium of Music in Sydney. She joined the Australian Opera in 1982 and made her debut as a conductor at the Sydney Opera House in 1985.
A string of successes followed her move to Cologne Opera in 1987, progressing from repetiteur to Kapellmeister and conducting opera which included Lady Macbeth of Mstensk and Die Zauberflöte. More debuts ensued at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin, the Opera Bastille in Paris and Wiener Staatsoper where she made history as the first woman to ever conduct at these houses. Simone Young has conducted no less than 7 productions of Wagner’s Ring Cycle in Vienna, Berlin and Hamburg.
By 1996 she had conducted at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich and New York’s Metropolitan Opera. She turned her attention to symphonic music in 2005, conducting the Vienna, London and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras over the ensuing years.
Throughout these years, Young has returned to Australia regularly, conducting the major orchestras and lecturing at the Australian National Academy of Music. In 2012 she toured to Brisbane with the Hamburg State Opera and Ballet performing acclaimed productions of Das Rheingold in concert and Mahler’s Symphony No 2 ‘Resurrection’. Over the past two seasons, Young has conducted at the Vienna, Zurich and Bavarian State operas, performing repertoire that extends from Puccini to Wagner, Beethoven, Britten and R Strauss.
Simone Young has an extensive discography which includes the complete Brahms and Bruckner Symphonies, Halevy’s La Juive and Hindemith’s Mathis de Maler. Her videography includes performances of works by Janacek and Poulenc.
With a string of award to her name, from Young Australian of the Year in 1987, to a Grammy nomination for La Juive, several Helpmann and Green Room Awards, the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from France, and the European Cultural Prize from Vienna, Simone Young’s appointment to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra is an exciting and promising not just for the performance of symphonic music in Sydney, but for the SSO’s broader agenda which extends to education, the nurturing of Australian composers, recording projects and audience development.