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When he stepped onto the Sidney Myer Music Bowl podium in 2003, it wasn’t just Benjamin Northey’s MSO debut. “It was my first big concert with a professional orchestra,” he recalls. As if that wasn’t pressure enough, he chose to conduct the entire concert without the scores. “I still have no idea what I was thinking.”

Whatever it was, it worked, because “they were all tremendously impressed and immediately invited me back”. Again and again, especially from 2007, when Northey returned from studying in Europe. He was appointed as the MSO’s Associate Conductor in 2010, then Principal Conductor in Residence nine years later.

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Northey has many fond memories of leading the Orchestra, including 2021’s WATA: A Gathering for Songmen, Improvising Soloists and Orchestra by the Wilfred brothers and Paul Grabowsky AO, and the collaboration with Nick Cave and Warren Ellis in 2019. All his Sidney Myer Music Bowl concerts are favourites too, “encapsulating Melbourne’s love of music and the generosity of the Orchestra”. Off-stage highlights include Russian violinist Maxim Vengerov saying “just relax” to a notably nervous Northey ahead of the MSO’s 2017 Season Opening Gala. “It was really funny; it was such an understated thing to say.” He also relished the opportunity to host the MSO’s Up Late series of online interviews (which were presented by partners TarraWarra Estate) during pandemic lockdowns. “We wanted to stay connected with our audience, subscribers and musicians, so we thought it was a good chance to celebrate the individual lives of the musicians.” Chatting with everyone from MSO First Violin Eleanor Mancini to then newly appointed Chief Conductor Jaime Martín, Northey tried to “stay positive and help everybody through that difficult time”. One viewer wrote: “You are the light that is getting me through COVID.”

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In his 20th anniversary year Northey has led the MSO through some legendary performances including August's jazz concert with trumpet legend Wynton Marsalis with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and MSO combined, spring’s Metropolis series, and October’s reprise of another career highlight, Deborah Cheetham Fraillon AO’s Eumeralla, a war requiem for peace. “The MSO has made me the conductor I am today. I’ve grown with them over the 20 years, and I’d like to think I’ll continue to grow. I’ll be forever grateful.”

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Bartók and Beethoven

A brilliant concert for newcomers and classical buffs alike, Benjamin Northey conducts this program featuring an evocative depiction of the Australian landscape, an energetic romp through the countryside with Beethoven, and the extraordinary talent of pianist Berta Brozgul. Join us to commemorate Ben’s 20th consecutive year of conducting the MSO at this celebratory performance!

Thursday 02 November 2023
7:30pm at Melbourne Town Hall
Friday 03 November 2023

7:30pm at Robert Blackwood Hall

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