The just-released Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Annual Report for its 2023 season highlights a year of growth with MSO performances in concert halls across Victoria, attracting an audience of 304,623.

The resulting box office revenue of $17.6m represents the highest grossing box office year in MSO history. MSO Chairman David Li acknowledged “the great support of the Australian Government through the Office of the Arts, and the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria for their significant contribution in 2022 to sustain the Orchestra. This additional funding ensured we were able to return an operational surplus of $76,889.”

Jaime Martín and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Photo © Laura Manariti

Reflecting on his second year with the MSO, Chief Conductor Jaime Martín spot-lit the work of its musicians. During the report period, he led the MSO in a diverse array of concerts including its Season Opening Gala: Zenith for Life, featuring 2023 Artist in Residence, Siobhan Stagg, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, and Ray Chen’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.

“It has been an incredible journey working alongside the MSO’s outstanding musicians and collaborating with artists from Australia and across the globe,” said Martín. “Our season program was one of great joy. We performed works that had their premiere hundreds of years ago, as well as those making their world premiere with the MSO.”

As well as delivering 177 live performances, the Orchestra also presented 194 education workshops, 18 schools’ performances, and 56 audience talks, conversations and learning events across the year, attracting 36,199 students, teachers and lifelong learners to the MSO. A further 4.03m people across 88 countries engaged with the MSO via radio and in the digital realm, with an additional 20m views in China.

During the year, the MSO hosted 199 Australian artists, soloists and ensembles, and more than 20 international guests. It performed 168 Australian works and presented the world premiere of 17 MSO commissions from composers such as 2023 MSO Composer in Residence, Mary Finsterer, Elena Kats-Chernin and the MSO’s Cybec Young Composer in Residence, Melissa Douglas.

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Deborah Cheetham Fraillon, Jaime Martín and the MSO, Opening Season Gala, 2022. Photo © Laura Manariti

The MSO continued to celebrate Australia’s First Nations artists. Its Musical Acknowledgement of Country, Long Time Living Here, composed by MSO First Nations Creative Chair, Deborah Cheetham Fraillon, opened MSO concerts across Victoria. On the 25th anniversary of National Sorry Day, the MSO presented its inaugural First Voices Showcase. MSO also presented One Song: The Music of Archie Roach, and Buŋgul, which paid tribute to the late Dr Gurrumul Yunupingu.

The MSO also announced a new partnership with the Australian Music Centre and ABC Classic, which will see the creation of a new audio library of Australian music featuring more than 400 works co-/commissioned by the MSO over the past 30 years.

For the first time in its 22-year history, the ABC Classic 100 became a live concert event under the direction of MSO Principal Conductor in Residence, Benjamin Northey. The concert was broadcast live on ABC Classic Radio, and made available on ABC iview where it has generated more than 2.88 million views.

“Positive outcomes across the organisation are evidence of the hard work and dedication of our team where each person has played a role in navigating the complexities of the 2023 environment, ensuring that the MSO continues to thrive,” said MSO Chairman David Li.

Get Limelight's free weekly round-up of music, arts and culture.