From 2021 Young will begin shaping the orchestra’s upcoming seasons and its Opera House return as chief conductor designate.


Young said the prospect of leading the orchestra to new performance heights in the acoustically enhanced Concert Hall and deepening the relationship between a city and its orchestra is what prompted her to turn down at least one rival international offer. 

“That is something I want to underline and expand and develop as much as possible: the orchestra, the venue, the city, the audience are all part of the performance,” she said.

Board chairman Terrey Arcus said the appointment came after an intensive global search and Young, who was artistic director of the Hamburg State Opera and music director of the Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra for 10 years, was “our orchestra’s first choice”.

Young said she had been in discussions with the orchestra and its chief executive officer, Emma Dunch, for a year and had been impressed by Dunch’s strategic vision for enhancing the orchestra’s reputation and building new audiences. In 2018, SSO reported a loss of $2.2 million, partly driven by the $1 million costs of mounting its seven-country European tour, and planning the Concert Hall renovations.

Renowned for her interpretations of the great Viennese masters, Young said she intended to build bridges between Australian audiences and contemporary Australian composers.

“The relationship already exists between the composers and musicians, and it exists with some composers and the audiences but I think we can expand that,” she said.

Young will continue to conduct engagements in Europe and the US throughout her Sydney tenure.

“The agreement we’ve come to is that I will come for three blocks of time each year, and like most chief conductors it will be an average of eight or nine weeks a year,” Young said. “When you think the orchestra does 35 weeks of mainstream symphonic repertoire, that’s just over a quarter of their subscription weeks. That’s quite substantial.”

Young’s long-standing association with the SSO began in 1996, and she has returned to Australia to conduct every year since.

“It is an orchestra I know and love,” she said. “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.”

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