Fresh from its second tour to India this year and wildly successful concerts in Sydney and Melbourne under Italian maestro Riccardo Muti, the Australian World Orchestra has announced its 2019 season, which will see Artistic Director Alexander Briger leading concerts in Melbourne and Canberra, as well as six of the best in a chamber music offering for Sydneysiders.

Australian World Orchestra, Alexander BrigerAlexander Briger. Photo © Anna Kucera

This will be the first time the AWO, which formed in 2011 and draws its players from top spots in orchestras all over the world, will perform in the nation’s capital.

Following on from the AWO’s Chamber 8 concerts last year, the orchestra will present the AWO Six – violinists Natalie Chee and Daniel Dodds, violists Andra Darzins and Tahlia Petrosian, and cellists David Berlin and Julian Thompson – who will give a single performance in Sydney’s City Recital Hall on July 30. The program will feature Mendelssohn’s Second String Quintet and Brahms’ Second String Sextet, Agathe (for Agathe von Siebold, with whom the composer was infatuated).

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be leading the AWO again and especially to be going to Canberra for the first time,” Briger said. Briger will conduct the Czech composer’s Taras Bulba, based on episodes from Gogol’s novel of the same name, in Melbourne’s Hamer Hall on July 26 and Canberra’s Llewellyn Hall on July 27, in a program alongside Sibelius’ Second Symphony, best known for its expansive finale, which has come to be associated with Finnish independence. The program will also feature Australian composer Nigel Westlake’s Flying Dream, an orchestral suite taken from the composer’s music for the film Paper Planes.

“I really wanted to do an Australian work,” the conductor told Limelight. “I love Nigel Westlake – I love him as a person and I love his music.”

Briger is a Janáček specialist, a passion fostered by his studies with his uncle Sir Charles Mackerras. “If there’s one thing that Charles taught me, it was Janáček.” But Taras Bulba is also an opportunity to demonstrate what the AWO can do. “It’s such a virtuosic piece for orchestra, it’s very hard, and it really shows off every section, particularly the brass,” Briger said. “We’ve got an amazing trombone section.”

Briger is also planning a rendition of the Sibelius as it’s not normally heard. “I do a certain ending that no one does, but was discovered – it’s a timpani part – that no one does, not even the Finnish even know about it. But it’s authentic Sibelius and it makes a huge difference to the score,” he said. “It just completely changes the ending of the Symphony.”

“Again it really shows off the orchestra,” he says. “Sibelius Two is very well-known for its brass, but also the strings – the virtuosity of the fast movement, the Scherzo, but also that last movement! And that is something that I believe separates the AWO from many orchestras is its string section – that it is so lush, and so full and so vibrant, the way they move – that is something that I’m very proud of.”

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