With performances of two musical behemoths either side of it – Mahler’s 5th and Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder – Sydney Symphony Orchestra Chief Conductor Simone Young’s latest trip to the podium featured forces stripped back to chamber orchestra proportions at times.

With Schumann’s Second Symphony as the main course – and a side dish of Beethoven’s Second on the Saturday programme – the first course was a celebration of International Women’s Day with Young conducting a female composer in Peggy Glanville-Hicks and Acting Principal Oboe Shefali Pryor as soloist.

Simone Young conducts the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Photo supplied

Scored for strings, oboe, harp and celesta, Three Gymnopédies has nothing in common with Erik Satie’s popular piano pieces other than their title which translates as “naked or unarmed youths”. The orchestral miniatures, repurposed in 1954 from an earlier composition as possible musical fillers for radio shows, reflect Glanville-Hicks’ fascination with the culture of Ancient Greece and Sparta where young athletes acquired grace through ritual dancing.

Pryor’s oboe floated serenely over the broad strings while Louisic Dulbecco’s harp picked out some flecks of colour in the opening Lento tranquillo piece. As with...