David Robertson announced as the Inaugural Creative Partner with Utah Symphony | Utah Opera
David Robertson—a distinguished and renowned American conductor, composer, thinker, artist, and visionary—will join Utah Symphony | Utah Opera’s artistic leadership team in the newly-created role of Creative Partner for a three-year tenure beginning in the 2023-24 season. The symphony’s international search for its next Music Director is ongoing and Robertson looks forward to a close collaboration with that position when an appointment is made. This week, Robertson conducts the Utah Symphony in two Masterworks performances, Friday and Saturday evenings at Maurice Abravanel Hall, as well as a Finishing Touches open rehearsal on Friday morning.
Recognized as a deeply curious and thoughtful artist, Robertson, in his role as Creative Partner, will develop innovative programs and multifaceted artistic projects that speak to him musically and speak to the communities the symphony serves. These artistic endeavors will include festival-style formats allowing for in-depth explorations of musical genres or instruments, collaborations with fellow arts and education organizations, programs inspiring dialogue on topical issues, and traditional formats—all designed to engage new audiences and long-standing fans. A highly sought-after figure on the podium, Robertson will create and conduct three programs in each year of his tenure, will build relationships with the communities the Utah Symphony serves, and will embrace the organization’s education mission through activities inside and outside of Abravanel Hall.
For the 2023-24 season, he has developed and will lead three programs—one that will deepen the audience’s understanding of a favorite masterpiece, pulling together the organization’s symphonic and operatic sides; an exploration of works that paint images of America, Finland, and Germany; and a program that extends beyond the stage into the broader community as a wide-reaching festival. (Full details of the Utah Symphony’s 2023-24 season will be announced in March.)
To the newly-created role, Robertson brings extensive experience leading renowned orchestras worldwide, having held artistic leadership positions at the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lyon, Ensemble InterContemporain, and BBC Symphony Orchestra. In Europe, he appears regularly with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Staatskapelle Dresden, and at the BBC Proms, among others; in the U.S., he has longstanding relationships with the New York Philharmonic, The Metropolitan Opera, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and more. Robertson plays an important role in training the next generation of artists as Director of Conducting Studies, Distinguished Visiting Faculty at The Juilliard School. He is celebrated worldwide as a champion of contemporary composers and American music—and, with wide-ranging musical interests, is a founder of the electric guitar ensemble Another Night on Earth.
As the Utah Symphony works to identify its next Music Director, the organization is taking a fresh look at artistic leadership structure, considering the important role artistic vision plays in exciting existing and new audiences and embracing the growing and changing perspectives across Utah communities. This new leadership structure, in which the Music Director and Creative Partner work closely together with the entire artistic team, will inspire new ideas that could only come to light through collaboration. The symphony anticipates continuing this forward-thinking model beyond Robertson’s three-year term. Robertson’s current career interests align with this model, as he is seeking to create “longer-term conversations” that allow him to know and understand an organization and its community while maintaining his connections with other organizations.
“The great joy is when you feel you’ve found the right key that unlocks things only that orchestra can do,” Robertson told VAN magazine in a recent interview, discussing the importance of understanding and tapping into the unique characteristics of each ensemble. Robertson instantly found that key with the Utah Symphony—musicians, audiences, and critics alike recognized his artistic chemistry with the orchestra in his debut appearance in the fall of 2020, and in his subsequent return last season.
Equally skilled in conducting symphonic and operatic repertoire, Robertson is also positioned to uncover imaginative opportunities for collaboration between the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera, the only merged organization of its kind and scope in the U.S. On a personal level, the California-born and New York-based conductor has family connections to Utah and a deep love for the state—and, importantly, with his energetic spirit and a down-to-earth, approachable demeaner, he will undoubtedly build infectious excitement in the community around his visionary artistic concepts.
“I have the deepest respect for the musicians of the Utah Symphony and their artistry, and am honored and delighted to serve as Creative Partner,” says Robertson. “I am greatly looking forward to collaborating with the musicians, the incoming Music Director, and leadership at the symphony to explore new ideas, deliver inspired music making, and connect with the people of Utah. I am eager to build meaningful relationships in this state—which is so close to my heart—and to engage even more Utahns in the symphonic art form through the programs and dialogue we will create together.”
Robertson has described his conducting approach as one of learning as much as he can rather than dictating what happens, and his non-dogmatic and deeply collaborative style resonates with the Utah Symphony’s musicians. “Maestro Robertson brings such incredible energy, creativity, and depth of knowledge to our collaborations,” says Concertmaster Madeline Adkins. “We’ve established a fantastic rapport during our rehearsals and performances together, and the musicians are excited to embark on this partnership!”
“All of us at the Utah Symphony are thrilled to welcome David Robertson, a conductor with whom our musicians felt an instant and ongoing musical connection,” says Utah Symphony | Utah Opera President & CEO Steve Brosvik. “Attracting a Creative Partner of his international stature speaks to the excellence of our musicians and our highly engaged audiences—and David’s creativity, musical ideas, and dynamic ability to pull everyone into those ideas make him the ideal person to develop this role with us and build upon the orchestra’s artistic strengths.”
“While our music director search continues, we are thrilled to establish this relationship with Maestro Robertson, one of the most prominent conductors today,” says USUO Trustee Pat Richardson, Chair of the Music Director Search Committee. “This appointment is in keeping with our goal to offer the most exciting artistic leadership to our community and orchestra. Maestro Robertson brings an artistic sensibility that will electrify audiences, inspire our musicians, and broaden our musical vision.”
Thierry Fischer, the orchestra’s beloved Music Director, has elevated the artistic excellence of the Utah Symphony to a new level over his 14-year tenure. He becomes Music Director Emeritus in the 2023-24 season and Robertson joins an exceptional artistic leadership team, which—along with the orchestra’s musicians and the full Utah Symphony | Utah Opera organization—is committed to continuing to build the symphony’s artistry while developing programming that resonates with Utah communities.
The Utah Symphony invites everyone in the community to witness the dynamic onstage partnership between David Robertson and the orchestra, as he leads Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 1, Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with pianist Behzod Abduraimov, and John Adams’ The Chairman Dances this weekend, Friday, December 9, and Saturday, December 10, at Abravanel Hall.