Sydney Symphony marks Stuart Challender anniversary

"When Stuart got onto the rostrum he became a light, and I sat in the warmth of this glow.” Donald Hazelwood AO OBE, former Sydney Symphony concertmaster

Today marks the 20 year anniversary of the death of former Sydney Symphony Chief Conductor Stuart Challender, beloved of musicians and audiences alike.

To mark the occasion, the Sydney Symphony has collaborated with ABC Classics to remember and celebrate Stuart Challender with a free download of him conducting the orchestra in Ravel’s ever popular Bolero.

To download the free track, visit

Born in Hobart in February 1947, Stuart Challender became Sydney Symphony Chief Conductor in August 1987. Under him, the orchestra's memorable achievements included the ABC Classics disc of Peter Sculthorpe's music, performances of Mahler's Resurrection Symphony, the Sydney and Adelaide seasons of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, and the 1988 tour of the USA.

As Challender’s international reputation grew, so his illness increasingly sapped his energies, and he died of AIDS-related causes on 13 December 1991. He was 44.

Tributes on this day have come from Sydney Symphony musicians past and present:

“My memory of Stuart Challender is that of a caring and passionate musician who believed in the great potential of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. He did much to establish the standard of excellence that we hear in the orchestra today … His friendly yet firm manner, easygoing charm, enthusiasm and commitment to the SSO will be remembered by many for a long time, as will his own special mix of quiet dignity and courage as he continued to conduct until the very end of his life.” Dene Olding, Sydney Symphony concertmaster

“Stuart came along at a crucial time in the SSO's history, the period in which we began the transition from being one of six ABC Orchestras, to an orchestra with our own identity. His leadership, both musically and administratively at that time can never be underestimated. The tragedy is that he never lived to see the fruits of his labour, to see what the SSO has become since his death in 1991, and, had he lived, I have absolutely no doubt that he would have enjoyed a stellar international career.” Colin Piper, Sydney Symphony percussionist

“After working in Melbourne with Stuart in the early 80s playing opera, I moved to the Sydney Symphony, and was thrilled when Stuart became Chief Conductor. I count myself as one of the lucky musicians who witnessed the spectacular rise and blossoming of his career.”  Rosamund Plummer, Sydney Symphony Principal Piccolo

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