Simon Hewett studied clarinet and conducting at The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, graduating with First Class Honours and a University Medal.
After receiving a German Government Scholarship, Simon continued his conducting studies at the Hochschule für Musik ‘Franz Liszt’ in Weimar, Germany from 1998 to 2001. From 2002 to 2003 he was a member of Opera Australia’s Young Artists’ Programme, and he has since returned regularly to Opera Australia as a guest conductor.
In 2005 Simon was invited by Simone Young to join the Hamburg State Opera as Resident Conductor and Assistant Music Director. From 2010-2016 he was Principal Conductor of the Stuttgart Opera. After conducting the premiere of John Neumeier’s Parsifa at the Baden Baden Festspielhaus in 2006, Simon Hewett was appointed Principal Conductor. In addition, his regular performances in Hamburg he has toured with the Hamburg Ballet to the Salzburg Festival, Australia, USA, Hong Kong and Japan. As a symphonic conductor Simon has appeared with the Queensland, Melbourne, Sydney and West Australian Symphony Orchestras.
Simon has recently moved with his family back to Brisbane where he has taken on a role as Music Director of the Queensland Youth Orchestras Organisation.
From 2021 Simon Hewett will be Principal Guest Conductor with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra.
I first listened to Biber’s Rosenkranzsonatten as a teenager. The Passacaglia is the final piece in a sequence of 15 ‘Rosary Sonatas,’ composed in 1676 but only discovered and published in 1905!
The Passacaglia is a piece that always restores my sense of calm and balance – like a meditation.
One of my favourites from the Well Tempered Klavier. The Prelude is like a delicate trio sonata, I imagine two flutes and bassoon, or two violins and a cello when playing this. The Fugue is like a glorious four-part choral fugue, lyrical, rich and resonant.
I heard the great Thomanerchor of Leipzig sing this when I was studying in Weimar. At the time, I was overwhelmed by the thought that this choir has been performing the works of Bach uninterrupted since Bach himself was Kantor in Leipzig, from 1723 until his death in 1750.
One of the crowning glories of the operatic repertoire. I conducted a new production for Opera Australia in 2012. The aria that opens the act, ‘Porgi Amor’, is one of the most beautiful, heartrending expressions of loneliness and marital unhappiness ever written.
The slow movement is one of the most profound things Beethoven ever wrote (and that is saying a lot!). It alternates between serene, solemn, hymn-like episodes and ecstatic dance. Beethoven subtitles the movement ‘Holy song of thanksgiving of a convalescent, in the Lydian mode.’
A sometimes overlooked, late sonata. I love the first movement, which in its intense, concentrated lyricism, anticipated Schumann. The Scherzo is almost Prokofiev-like in its rhythmic verve, but the short Adagio and final Fugue could only be by Beethoven!
One of the reasons I became a musician, and one of the glories of the whole repertoire of 19th Century chamber music. Brahms at his fullest, richest outpouring of genius. Lyrical, dramatic, melancholy, formally disciplined while at the same time full of Viennese elegance and Hungarian passion – it’s just one of my favourite pieces in the whole world.
One of my favourite operas. I conducted a production at the Sydney Opera House and in Hamburg. From the exhilarating opening scene in the midst of a storm, through Iago’s famous drinking song, to Desdemona and Otello’s achingly beautiful love duet, it is as perfect an opening to an opera as it is possible to imagine!
Nietzsche criticised Wagner for the subject matter of his final opera, Parsifal. But Nietzsche never listened to the music – he only read the libretto! The piece is five hours long, but I always leave a performance as if on a cloud. For all of Wagner’s faults, and there were many, he sure could conjure breathtaking sounds from an orchestra.
Two songs that my wife and I had sung at our wedding.
Songs that make me feel glad, and thankful.
The seventh is one of Mahler’s darkest symphonies, but it ends in jubilation. The sombre grandeur of the opening movement, the macabre scherzo, and the thrilling and uplifting finale….This symphony has such an enormous range of expression, one of my favourites.
One for the desert island, or a mountain top – ‘ich bin Der Welt abandon gekommen.’
The end of the greatest ballet ever composed (yes really!!). Prokofiev finds the exact emotional register for the end of a tragedy – like after you have had a good cry and you feel utterly exhausted, hollowed out. The high passions have run their course, and you leave the performance emotionally spent, but at peace.
I conducted this work many times in Hamburg, and at the Paris Opera.