#03 Simone Young, Conductor
“When I think of Australia I think of light…. it’s a lightness of spirit as well as a physical lightness.”
In 1983, at just 22, Simone Young had already joined the staff of Opera Australia. She studied at Sydney’s Conservatorium of Music prior to taking up her position with AO where she worked as a répétiteur, the title given to the person responsible for coaching singers and playing the piano for music and production rehearsals. By 1986, the young Sydneyite was conducting at the Sydney Opera House and appointed a resident conductor with Opera Australia. Among her mentors were Australian musician luminaries, the likes of conductors Charles Mackerras, Richard Bonynge and Stuart Challender.
In the late 1980s, Simone and her husband moved to Germany, where she took up a position assisting James Conlon, the conductor at the Cologne Opera. This led to further engagements, including working alongside the legendary Daniel Barenboim at the Berlin State Opera and the Bayreuth Festival. In 1998 she was appointed principal conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in Norway.
But Australia was never far from her sights. In 2000, Simone was given what she terms one of the greatest honours of her career, when she conducted the national anthem at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. Not long afterwards, she returned to take up the position of Music Director with Opera Australia, but despite these three years being an artistically rewarding period, they were turbulent years in her career. “It became obvious that I was not going to have the support that had been indicated at the start of my time that would be there,” she confided. “Then it became obvious that our ways were going to part, but the way it all happened was completely unnecessary. Deeply destructive for the company, very hurtful for me personally at the time but, once again, I focused all my energies on just doing the work,”
In 2005 Simone returned to Europe to direct one of the Germany’s major opera houses, the Hamburg State Opera, and as chief conductor of the city’s philharmonic orchestra, positions she held until 2015.
There have been many highlights in Simone’s career. Alongside conducting most of the world’s great orchestrasincluding the London and New York Philharmonic Orchestras,the City of Birmingham Symphony, and the BBC Symphony at the BBC Proms, she was also the first woman to conduct at the Vienna State Opera and the Vienna Philharmonic, two orchestras she regularly returns to conduct today.
Simone has also been a great mentor for a number of Australian conductors and singers. She says, “I think it is incredibly important for young conductors to see just how tough the working side of this job is. If you don’t want to work hard, don’t choose this profession.”
It was, indeed, in the midst of a heavy performance and rehearsal schedule in Berlin that Simone Young joined the Tall Poppies podcast. In this episode, she recalls how her musical education in Australia and her father’s good advice prepared her for an international conducting career. Simone also confides how she plans to tackle the latest position she has added to her illustrious list of honours – that of being the Australian Nana to her two grandchildren.
Title: Brahms Symphonies 2,3 and 4 Composer: Brahms, Simone Young and the Hamburg Philharmonic Recording: OehmsClassics
Title: Symphony Nr 9 Composer: Bruckner, Simone Young and the Hamburg Philharmonic Recording: OehmsClassics
Title: Symphony Nr 2 Composer: Gustav Mahler Recording: Simone Young and the Hamburg Philharmonic, OehmsClassics
Title: Der Ring des Nibelungen Composer: Richard Wagner Recording: OehmsClassics
Title: Eine Frau, die weiß, was sie will Composer: Oscar Strauß Recording: Komische Oper Berlin 2015
Title: Pelleas et Melisande Composer: Claude Debussy Recording: Komische Oper Berlin 2017
Title: Ball im Savoy, Kangaru Composer: Paul Abraham Recording: Komische Oper Berlin 2013
Chopin: 24 Preludes Cédric Tiberghien Chopin: 13 Preludes(from the 24 Preludes)Sviatoslav Richter Tokyo 1979 Bach JS: Prelude and Fugue No. 7 in E flat, BWV 852 – Well Tempered Clavier, Book I, Performed by Wanda Landowska, Harpsichord, 1949 Bach JS: Goldberg Variations –Harpsichord, Performed by Wanda Landowska (First Rec 1933)