We believe the Australian World Orchestra (AWO) to be one of the most exciting orchestral initiatives in our country’s cultural history. Our vision is simple: to bring together a selection of Australia’s successful classical musicians from around the world, to form one of the country’s most electrifying orchestras. The concept is unique – the only professional orchestra representing one nationality coming together from all over the world.

The AWO features Australians returning home from playing in leading world orchestras such as the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic Orchestras, Chicago and London Symphony Orchestras, the Concertgebouw and Gewandhaus, to name but a few. Australia’s international players come together with their colleagues from Australia’s own wonderful state orchestras, and the result is over 100 incredible musicians, representing over 40 orchestras under one roof.

The inaugural AWO concert series was held in Sydney in August 2011 under conductors Simone Young, Brett Dean and myself and included performances of Tchaikovsky’s 6th and Beethoven’s 9th symphonies, Sculthorpe’s Earth Cry and Dean’s Vexations and Devotions. We were also thrilled and honoured that the inaugural concert was awarded Best Orchestral Concert in the 2011 Limelight Awards and the live performance of the Beethoven’s 9th was released on the prestigious Gramophone label.

But why in the first place did I decide to set this orchestra in motion? Well, over the past 20 years I have conducted orchestras all over the world and it has never ceased to amaze me that wherever I conduct – in Europe, the USA or Asia – I find there are Australian musicians holding key positions. Many of these musicians are however, not recognised in our country and I felt this had to change.

More often than not, after a performance, I would end up having a drink with these musicians and discuss the idea of getting all the Australian classical musicians from around the world together to perform in an all-Australian symphony orchestra – a sort of “Barbarians” or “The Socceroos” of Australian music, for we all knew the incredible sound an orchestra such as this would produce!

Then, about seven years ago, I conducted the most wonderful orchestra in Japan called the Japanese Virtuoso Symphony Orchestra, a similar orchestra made up of Japanese symphonic musicians who come together annually from within Japan to perform at the Suntory Hall, Tokyo. It was the most marvellous experience for all concerned and it was at that moment I thought to myself – it’s time now to form a similar all-Australian orchestra, combining the enormous talent from our international and local orchestral players! Surely this would be one of the most thrilling orchestral experiences on our shores! The 2011 inaugural concerts proved this to be true.

Finally, we were extremely honoured that our 2013 season was conducted by one of the world’s greatest conductors, Maestro Zubin Mehta. To have this great man lead and inspire our wonderful musicians was truly unforgettable and we believe, unprecedented in our classical music-making history.

One of the phrases that kept cropping up when we first started talking to the musicians about forming this wonderful orchestra was, “What a brilliant idea-shame it will never happen!” We now know it did and long may it continue!


Alexander Briger AO
Chief Conductor and Artistic Director
Australian World Orchestra

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