The Italian Maestro and Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will conduct concerts in Sydney and Melbourne.

Riccardo Muti will conduct the Australian World Orchestra in 2018, it was announced today. The Italian maestro, who is Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, will lead the AWO in three concerts across Sydney and Melbourne in May.

“We are absolutely delighted that Maestro Riccardo Muti, who has not been to Australia for more than 15 years, will conduct the AWO in 2018,” AWO Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Alexander Briger said. “There’s a huge sense of anticipation from the musicians about performing with this great conductor, especially AWO trombonist Michael Mulcahy who has a strong connection with Muti as a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Tobias Lea from the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.”

Riccardo MutiItalian maestro Riccardo Muti. Photo © Todd Rosenberg Photography

Since its inaugural concerts in 2011, the AWO has performed with a string of high profile conductors, including Sir Simon Rattle, Simone Young and Zubin Mehta.

“One of the phrases that always comes up when describing the AWO is ‘a first’,” Briger tells Limelight. “Our goal was always to obtain certain conductors that had toured to Australia with their own orchestras but had never come to conduct an Australian orchestra, as well as trying to entice certain superstars who would be considered in the ‘top 5 most famous conductors alive.’ We had this with Zubin Mehta and Sir Simon Rattle and now a third in only our 6th year – Riccardo Muti.”

Muti will conduct a programme featuring Brahms Second Symphony alongside Tchaikovsky’s Fourth. “We always try and tailor the programme to the strengths of that conductor: Mehta – Mahler/Stravinsky; Rattle – Bruckner; Young – Wagner/Messiaen. And so with Muti – Brahms and Tchaikovsky. Muti always produces a luscious Viennese reading of Brahms and his Tchaikovsky Four is world-renowned. Both he and I discussed the programme and it was decided upon within one email! Easy. Oh, and of course there will be some Verdi! But it’s a surprise!”

Alexander Briger, Australian World OrchestraThe Australian World Orchestra’s Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Alexander Briger. Photo courtesy of AWO

The AWO turns seven in 2018 – is this where Briger thought the orchestra would be seven years later when it was established back in 2011? “Not quite,” he says. “It was a dream but as we all know, it’s hard to make dreams realities. However, when Mehta came and said it was ‘one of the top 10 orchestras on earth’ and then Rattle called it ‘an international treasure’, we all knew just what we had ignited. As Sir Georg Solti said – ‘you can’t keep talent down’.”

Following on from this year’s AWO Chamber 8 tour, 2018 will also feature a chamber offering. “Last year’s AWO Chamber concerts were incredibly successful and so we were delighted to be approached by the Sydney Mozart Society to take part in their 2018 season on Friday April 27 – the week prior to the Muti concerts. The six-piece ensemble of quartet, piano and clarinet will incorporate musicians from both overseas and Australia, all uniting for a beautiful programme of Mozart, Brahms and Schumann.”

Securing Muti is a coup for what Briger describes as “an audacious and limitless orchestra.”

“Muti chooses very carefully the orchestras he wants to work with,” he says. “So whilst this is another ‘first’ and a huge honour for all of us in Australia, it’s again proving the talent of our Australian musicians. In no other field does Australia possess such a wealth of international talent: not sport, acting, visual art, or other genres of music etc. Only classical music. And it never stops!”

Riccardo Muti will conduct the Australian World Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House May 2 – 4 and Arts Centre Melbourne May 5. Tickets are on sale from October 13.