The 2020 season of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra will be its last with long-time Artistic Director and Chief Conductor Nicholas Milton at the helm.
Announced on Tuesday night (30 July) at the CSO’s 2020 season launch, Dr Milton’s departure will come after 14 years guiding the orchestra and helping to lift its national profile and engagement with the community.
“What I tried to do is position the orchestra as an organism that functions for its community,” Dr Milton said.
He paid tribute to the musicians’ ‘incredible engagement, professionalism virtuosity, and dedication to our mission’.
A mission that included developing the CSO’s community outreach program and fostering Australian music and young Australian musicians.
Dr Milton said he had seen the orchestra blossom and support ambitious initiatives such as the Kingsland Resident Artists program and the unique Australian Series in collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery that had hosted countless world premieres of new Australian music.
He was proud of the Australian content on CSO programs that had been embraced by the audience. He said in 2020, three out of the four Llewellyn Series concerts would include Australian compositions.
Dr Milton said it was simply time for him and the orchestra to move on, saying change and fresh perspectives were essential in music.
“Chief conductors have the privilege of working with a group of musicians for a period. I had a wonderful violin that was given to me when I was a violinist, and I had the privilege of playing with it. Great instruments teach you how to play them and your time with that instrument is just a few years or a career long, and the moment comes when you no longer have that instrument,” he said.
“You still have a passion and love for that instrument but your ideas change and you need to go in a different direction with sound, with your approach to the music.”
His leaving had not influenced the programming for 2020, apart for a possible indulgence with Mahler’s Fifth Symphony.
“Maybe there’s a part of me that thought in my last year let’s allow ourselves to go really all out with a big Mahler symphony,” he said.
Beethoven also features because it will be the 250th anniversary of his birth and Jessica Cottis will return to conduct the Third ‘Eroica’ Symphony.
Another highlight of the Llewellyn Series will be Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony.
The ‘Best of British’ gala event will feature celebrated, Canberra-born soprano Lorina Gore, together with a massed choir, and include Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March, Dambusters, Jerusalem and Rule Brittania.
The CSO will also perform a Symphony in the Park with Rumours – the Australian Fleetwood Mac experience, conducted by George Ellis.
The 2020 Artist in Residence was announced as Sydney Symphony Orchestra cellist Umberto Clerici, who is already well loved by Canberra audiences.
He will join the CSO for Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto, and will also conduct the Canberra Weekly Classic Afternoon concert, featuring Mozart’s Fourth Violin Concerto with soloist Natalie Chee.
Dr Milton said he wanted to have somebody who would have a charisma and connection with the audience.
Clerici himself was looking to broaden his relationship with the CSO, and be more than a performer with the orchestra.
Clerici will also mentor the Kingsland scholars, who he hopes to encourage to stretch their boundaries and define themselves for the future.
Instead of just doing what they are told, Clerici said ‘it’s much more interesting for them to be active, and also for me to discover their personalities’.
Other soloists will include Canberra’s Alan Vivian who will perform Weber’s Clarinet Concerto with the orchestra and pianist Konstantin Shamray.
The Australian Series will include a new work from the winner of the Sue W Chamber Music Composition Prize for emerging female composers.
The CSO continues to be supported by ActewAGL, the ACT Government, Singapore Airlines and next season PwC will come on board as a principal partner alongside Shell, which will be in its 40th year supporting the orchestra.
Dr Milton will still have his plate full after 2020, with Artistic Director roles in Germany and Sydney, and guest conducting around the world.
“I feel deeply honoured to have been part of the rich and vibrant history of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra,” Dr Milton said. “We have shared extraordinary moments on stage, and I am proud of all that we have together accomplished.”
The CSO will announce Dr Milton’s successor in 2020.
For more information about the 2020 program go here.