Alexander Briger has wowed audiences as the second Australian ever to conduct the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
Australian conductor Alexander Briger has led the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in a six-concert series to great acclaim. The Australian World Orchestra’s Chief Conductor and Artistic Director was asked to step in for an unwell Christoph Dohnányi in early October, at the recommendation of Music Director For Life, Zubin Mehta. Briger has now become the second Australian to conduct the IPO, following in the footsteps of Kynan Johns who replaced an indisposed Wolfgang Sawallisch in 2004.
Leading a programme that included Brahms, Schubert, and Beethoven, Briger was warmly received by critics, who noted in particular the vitality of his approach to Brahms’ First Symphony. Orna Langer, writing for Israel Hayom, commended the “flowing pace and dramatic contrasts of orchestration” that Briger drew from the IPO, producing an “intense sound full of splendor and glory”.
“The Philharmonic and Briger concluded the symphony with electrifying tension,” she wrote.
Matan Oren noted Briger’s assured leadership, stating “guest conductors have little time in which to tell an orchestra what they want. A few rehearsals and straight into the performance. But during these few rehearsals, Australian conductor Alexander Briger managed to communicate to the orchestra his vision of Brahms’ First Symphony: the first movement must be angry, persistent, devoid of any sentimentality, one should play it fast with great tension. This was the work of a young man (Brahms began composing it when he was 21) that explodes with painful, almost violent, emotion”.
“Briger’s approach worked,” the review continued. “His produced a performance full of character, fiery and belligerent. ‘Almost like Mahler’ commented a female friend as we left, and I agreed”.
“It was without doubt one of the greatest experiences of my life,” Briger told Limelight. “We just ‘clicked’ from the first rehearsal and they played their hearts out. The orchestra is remarkable of course. The audience too really loved the performances and gave us standing ovations.”
“The musicians are already talking about a re-invitation,” he said. “It’s phenomenal to be put in the class of the likes of Mehta, Barenboim, Muti, Dudamel, and Petrenko, all who conduct there regularly. Let’s see where it leads?”