A few years before Vladimir Ashkenazy took up his role as Principal Conductor in 2009, one of the leaders of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra told him the orchestra seldom played Sibelius’s symphonies other than the popular Second and the Fifth.

Benjamin Northey Benjamin Northey. Photo © Laura Manariti

Such a disservice to one of the 20th century’s most important composers was soon put right with Ashkenazy conducting a full cycle of the seven symphonies, the Violin Concerto and four of the tone poems. He turned the SSO into a Sibelius orchestra, much as he made them a formidable Mahler outfit with his landmark cycle later in his tenure.

With the uncertainties of the pandemic and the difficulties of programming ahead, the SSO has reverted to performing the two tried and trusted warhorses for its 2021 season, along with the Violin Concerto later in the year.

Under the baton of Benjamin Northey, Principal Conductor in Residence for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the Sydney band showed that it had lost none of its affinity for the great Finn’s music with a riveting performance of the...