Celebrating 20 years as a conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra this year, Benjamin Northey is experiencing “the best year I’ve ever had”.

“Workwise, this year has been incredibly full,” he tells Limelight. “I can’t think of a better one. I’ve probably had busier years in terms of the number of concerts I’ve conducted – especially when you think back to before COVID. But from my point of view, I’ve never experienced more extraordinary work than right now. It’s amazing.”

Just off a plane from Christchurch (he is Chief Conductor of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra), Northey is plunging into his next gig: leading the MSO through this week’s Bartók and Beethoven concerts. Limelight managed to pin him down for a chat about what led him to the podium and what he’s learned from two decades on it.

Benjamin Northey. Photo © Laura Manariti

What got you started in conducting? Is it something you always imagined yourself doing?

It was purely through the encouragement of a teacher, John Hopkins. I was in my fourth year of my Honours degree at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and we had to do an elective in conducting....