AUDACIOUS, EXHILARATING, LIMITLESS: THE AWO VISION BY OUR ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, ALEXANDER BRIGER AO
We (the Australian World Orchestra) are a bold and ambitious cultural initiative, an independent creation unequalled in the artistic history of our nation. Our passion for the artform, and a determination to bring together the finest Australian musicians from around the globe, has created an astonishing orchestra with a distinctively rich and flexible sound, while our world class concerts have excited and rekindled the public’s enthusiasm for classical music.
It is a unique concept. We are the only professional orchestra on the planet that represents players from a single nation coming together from all over the world. To use a sporting metaphor, we are the Socceroos of Australian music. Our players return home from leading orchestras in Berlin, Vienna, Chicago, London, Amsterdam, as well as from many other cities, to perform alongside their brilliant colleagues from Australia’s wonderful state orchestras. The result: since inception over 250 incredible Australian instrumentalists from 50 different orchestras, all making music under the one roof. In a testament to our concept, our first concert, conducted by internationally acclaimed Australian conductor Simone Young AM (now Chief Conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra), was voted the best orchestral concert of 2011 by readers of Limelight Magazine.
As an orchestra, we naturally recognise that our best performances are a product of teamwork, so we encourage collaboration in everything we do while ensuring that a spirit of inclusiveness, openness and artistic honesty is always leavened with a light-heartedness and sense of fun. That combination not only motivates us on our own journey but encourages the kind of free thinking that attracts the very best musicians, staff and sponsors to be a part of the AWO adventure.
In our relatively short history, we have attracted some of the most brilliant, influential and charismatic conductors in the world today, every one of whom has fallen in love with the electrifying, disciplined AWO sound and our endless store of anecdotes that are proof of a rare musical camaraderie. Our friend, the legendary Maestro Zubin Mehta, for example, has referred to the AWO as “one of the top 10 orchestras on earth”. One of his first pronouncements was that “the whole world must hear this orchestra” and Maestro Mehta went on to back it up by inviting us to join him on a truly unforgettable tour of India in 2015, the first Australian orchestra to have visited this incredible country.
Sir Simon Rattle, who joined us in 2015 to conduct a series of unforgettable Helpmann Award-winning concerts of Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony, was equally excited. “I’m not being polite when I say that the AWO is one of the great orchestras in the world. I mean it, so please look after it and tell everybody else to help you look after it,” he said, going on to describe the orchestra as “not just a national treasure but an international treasure”.
He was followed in 2018 by one of the greatest living conductors, Maestro Riccardo Muti, who led the orchestra in ‘spettacolare’ performances of Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Verdi and called the AWO “the most flexible orchestra I have ever conducted”.
Commissioning new works and performing pieces by contemporary Australian composers is imperative for the future of orchestral music and is an activity that we hold very close to our hearts. Our commissions have included Brett Dean’s orchestration of Debussy’s divine song cycle “Ariettes oubliées” performed in 2015 by guest mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená. For our 5th birthday in 2016 we commissioned Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin AO to compose a concerto for eight double basses, “The Witching Hour”, the first in the history of music! For our 10th Birthday in 2021 we have commissioned Australian composer Paul Dean to compose a large piece for orchestra reflecting upon the times we’re currently living through and the world today.
Inspired and inspiring, we exist to make classical music more attractive, accessible and enjoyable to audiences, as well as to the young musicians who benefit from our educational initiatives. A genuinely independent organisation, we are unafraid to be ambitious, even provocative, while fostering a keen sense of discipline and attention to detail that means we continually seek to refine and build on our vision and achievements to date. One of the phrases that often arose when we first talked about forming this remarkable orchestra was: “What a brilliant idea, shame it will never happen!” Now that it has, our hearts and minds are focussed firmly on the future.
Alexander Briger AO, Co-Founder,
Artistic Director and Chief Conductor