The MSO is back in force

The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra is back in full force, entering a new era with the arrival of its new conductor, Jaime Martín.

Few can put the current times into better perspective than cellist Michelle Wood. ‘A Melbourne girl through and through’, Wood grew up listening to the MSO, studied at the University of Melbourne and has been a member of the orchestra’s cello section since 2009, and says there’s a sense tangible renewal and revitalization in the air.

Michelle Wood, cellist of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Picture provided.

“It feels a bit like a rebirth in some ways,” Wood says. “But I think that reboot was a beautiful thing. [at the same time as] also a new conductor. That in itself gives an orchestra a slightly different life… It really feels like a new beginning.

“Orchestras always have their sound inherently because of who is in the orchestra. But you get a new perspective on things when you have a new musician in front of the orchestra. And in Jaime’s case, because he comes from an orchestral career, it puts a new and different spin on what we do compared to other artistic directors of the past.

Martín of course spent many years as a flautist, including as Principal Flute for the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, where he remained for three years before moving At the direction. But Wood says Martín’s orchestral experience clearly shines through in his conducting – it’s like he knows the pieces inside out.

“Jaime… thinks of phrases like a wind player,” Wood explains. “It’s really amazing to see someone describe something from that perspective.”

Jaime Martin

Jaime Martín, conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Photo © Marc Mitchell

The orchestra is certainly not getting back into things. Already in 2022 they performed Bartók, Beethoven, Mahler and the world premiere of Deborah Cheetham’s Baparripna with Martín – these last two works performed together in the New Beginnings: Season Opening Gala – as well as Brahms and Korngold with Ben Northey, and their Chinese New Concert of the Year.

And things don’t stop from here: the next few months see the visit of Vasily Petrenko conducting Elgar, Jaime Martín conducting Stravinsky’s three fierce ballets – Fire Bird, Petrushka and The Rite of Spring – in one sitting, German cellist Daniel Müller-Schott performing Dvořák’s Cello Concerto, and of course the Australian debut of the world’s hottest classical artist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who will lead poster for the OSM’s mid-season gala in July.

Sheku Kanneh-Mason

Sheku Kanneh-Mason. Photo © Jake Turney

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Wood says. “The funny thing is that usually as orchestral musicians you focus on what you’re doing next week or the week after, maybe. And when someone says, “I can’t wait for Sheku to come out for the Mid-Season Gala in July,” in your brain, you’re like, “I didn’t even think about July.”

“But I’m looking forward to this week. I love the Shostakovich concerto that Sheku plays. It’s the lesser known of the two Shostakovich concertos, but I really like it, so I can’t wait to hear it do that.

With the upcoming visit of two world-class cellists, Kanneh-Mason and Müller-Schott, I have to ask Wood what she sees and hears in the playing of these great virtuosos that non-cellists would miss.

“I have a background in chamber music,” Wood says, “so I like cellists who not only have the ability to be a virtuoso, but also the kind of musicians who can really draw you in. Musicians who can find this incredibly intimate sound, and find a sound that is unique.

“I grew up listening to Rostropovich and all those guys, but nowadays many musicians can find different and unique sounds on the instrument. They challenge the idea that the cello should be played with a big vibrato , and being really loud and virtuosic. I like that other approach, which I’ve experienced more in chamber music. Bringing that approach to a concerto with a bigger orchestra is a really interesting way of doing it.

Daniel Müller-Schott © Uwe Arens

“Müller-Schott, who we’ve worked with before, is fantastic at doing this because he has this incredible quality of being able to project over 80 people, but at other times he will force the orchestra to fall and become something infinitely smaller,” continues Bois. “And it will be great to see Sheku play a lesser-known concerto, but one that gives him so much latitude to work with what Shostakovich has written. actually be there.

Exciting times, sure, but all those great orchestral works must be a challenge after so long without playing together?

“Absolutely!” said Wood. “We were all saying that last week when we were playing Korngold. It was like a kind of marriage of Mahler and Prokofiev and Strauss and God knows what, and this intense acting, these great works – there’s no way to get back to it but to throw your head in the first.

“It was a big thrill. I think you forget what a huge rush it is to be on stage with 80 other people and making that kind of noise. And that’s something that we didn’t forget, because I think to some extent the memory of that experience was the thing that kept us going even through the toughest times. But it has certainly been a wonderful thing to come back to.


The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s 2022 season features masterful renditions of great works spanning the centuries. For more information, visit mso.com.au.

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