Elena Kats-Chernin discusses the pressure of basing her first symphony on the Queensland floods.

Did the idea of a work about the Queensland floods come to you even as the tragedy was unfolding at the start of the year?
Originally, the Brisbane Festival commissioned me to write a symphony about Brisbane. I had already done research and started on the work, and then the floods happened. That changed the concept of the work immediately. I talked to the festival director Noel Staunton and we decided that it would be much more appropriate and more relevant to write a symphony about the floods.

So how did the music and concept change?
I had some material already and I threw it away and created completely new material from scratch. That’s the life of a composer – you create and you throw away.

What were the challenges for you in writing your first symphony?
One important consideration for me was the duration of the work: at 45 minutes it is the longest work I have ever written for the concert hall. The forces are the largest I have ever worked with: a large orchestra, a large choir, an organ and a piano. I’m...