In three years Nicholas Carter has honed a glorious sound out of the Adelaide Syphony Orchestra and he injects an energy that makes every concert a thrilling experience.
When Nicholas Carter came in as the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s (ASO) Principal Conductor in 2016 at the age of 29, he was one of the youngest conductors to ever lead an Australian orchestra. In the passage of three years since, the orchestra and audiences alike have come to realise that he is also one of the biggest conducting talents Australia has produced.
His tenure with the ASO was originally going to be for two years, but in 2017 it was announced that his position would extend into the 2018 season. So as the present year winds up, the good news is that Carter leads the orchestra for four more events in 2019.
In the season-opener on 29-30 March, he conducts a blockbuster program of Elgar, Sibelius, Ravel and Respighi in the Town Hall. In April, he conducts the first of four smaller Mozart concerts at Elder Hall, and in June he teams up with Jayson Gillham for the full cycle of Beethoven’s piano concertos, likewise in Elder Hall. ABC Classics will record all four concerts live.
Carter’s final concert will be on 12- 13 July, when he conducts Bruckner’s Fifth at the Town Hall. Undoubtedly, however, a strong enduring association will continue long after that. The intensely hard working, dedicated musician says he loves coming back to Adelaide from his home base in Klagenfurt, Austria. This is despite a demanding new role there as chief conductor of the Stadttheater Klagenfurt and Kärntner Sinfonieorchester, which he began in September and ever-increasing invitations to appear with orchestras all around the world.
Here he speaks about his three years with the ASO, and the year ahead.
As you approach your fourth and final year as Principal Conductor, how has the experience matched up to the expectations you had at the beginning?
“It’s been a really wonderful journey with the ASO. Indeed I was relatively young when I started as the Principal Conductor, and as such I was doing much of the repertoire for the first time. That’s the way it is! I felt huge warmth and support from the beautiful ASO colleagues. There was and still is a tremendous collective ambition to make something remarkable from this very special time in the ASO’s history.”
What are your highpoints with the ASO during these three years?
“Certainly bringing Brett Dean’s Hamlet to life as a part of the Adelaide Festival earlier this year was a watershed moment for me as a musician and for the orchestra too. I think that will always stand out as one of the most remarkable moments in Adelaide’s storied cultural history.”
Have there been any surprises or “learning” experiences that you’d care to share?
“Every moment on the podium is a learning experience; every rehearsal is full of surprises! That’s what keeps you on your toes! The moment things become routine or predictable there’s no point to what we do.”
How have you come to regard the ASO, and what is different or special about the orchestra?
“The ASO is certainly one of the friendliest orchestras in the world, but that friendliness and openness belies an extraordinary intensity in the manner in which they work. Their ambition to constantly improve is inspiring.”
You are here in Adelaide for eight to 10 weeks per year, in relatively short stints. What is it like when you are living in Austria, and have just begun there as Chief Conductor of Stadttheater Klagenfurt and Kärntner Sinfonieorchester as of September? ‘Busy’ must be your middle name!
“Busy is the best way to be! That said, I don’t consider what I do ‘work’. I study scores and make music. Yes, the hours and the pressure can be incredibly challenging, but by building on experiences from all around the world, one’s craft is refined. Thus the experiences are all the more rewarding.”
With the ASO in 2019, you conduct Bruckner’s Symphony No 5, Brahms’ Symphony No 3, and all five Beethoven piano concertos with pianist Jayson Gillham, amongst other works. Can you share some thoughts about what audiences can look forward to about these performances?
“The season opens with some fireworks – Ravel’s La Valse, Respighi’s Pines of Rome and Elgar’s In the South. A concert to lift the roof off the Town Hall! Working on a Beethoven cycle with one of Australia’s best young pianists will also be a thrill. And I finish my tenure with a performance of Bruckner’s monumental, beastly Fifth Symphony, one of the highest pinnacles in the Classical repertoire. It’s perhaps Bruckner’s most contrapuntal symphony. An apposite analogy of all of the wonderful experiences and journeys covered over the past years coming together, weaving their significances into a glorious, resounding and joyful finale.”
There’s much to look forward to. Meanwhile, the ASO finishes the year in festive spirit with two Christmas-themed concerts. They join the Adelaide Chamber Singers and soloists Sara Macliver, Fiona Campbell, Henry Choo and Morgan Pearse in Handel’s Messiah on 13, 14 and 15 December at Elder Hall. Leading them on this occasion is UK conductor Christian Curnyn.
Guy Noble takes to the podium in Christmas Proms, a family-friendly program of popular Christmas songs and traditional carols that makes a welcome return in four performances at the Festival Theatre on 14 and 15 December.