The award winning Australian World Orchestra (AWO) features an audacious bunch of musicians who all ‘want to make the impossible possible’, as part of what surely must be the most exciting orchestral initiative in Australia’s cultural history.
Since its inaugural concert series in 2011, the AWO has brought together some eighty six elite musicians all playing at a national level with state orchestras and revered ensembles, together with those who play regularly on the international scene including at the Berlin, Vienna and Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestras, the Chicago and London Symphony Orchestras.
Renowned as it is in 2017 for dazzling audiences at home and abroad, the AWO is funded by a committed array of sponsors and supporters with as CEO Gabrielle Thompson reminded everyone, always has room for more.
They were attending the distinctly Italian flavour filled evening at Caterina’s cucina e bar in Collins Street Melbourne, especially arranged to launch the 2018 Season for the Australian World Orchestra by Founder, Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Alexander Briger AO.
He announced the AWO would perform their annual series of three concerts in 2018 under the baton of the brilliant Italian conductor Maestro Riccardo Muti in May 2018 at the Sydney Opera House and Arts Centre Melbourne. Briger said “We are absolutely delighted Maestro Riccardo Muti, who has not been to Australia for more than 15 years, will conduct the AWO in 2018. 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.”
Alexander Briger having had a distinguished career himself to date, also related to the very keen audience why great conductors of the world such as England’s Sir Simon Rattle want to come to Australia to conduct the AWO. They look forward to having the pleasure of leading what Rattle called “…an international treasure”.
He had a fun time when he came in 2015, noting Aussies were the only musicians to understand his sense of humour. Yet another famous composer Zubin Mehta observed, the AWO was the Australian cricket team of classical music he wanted to coach.
Riccardo Muti has conducted many of the world’s greatest orchestras; the Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, The New York Philharmonic, Orchestre National de France, as well as the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra with which he has appeared at the Salzburg Festival since 1971.
He has received innumerable international honours during the course of his career, including the highest Papal honour; Knight of the Grand Cross First Class of the Order of St. Gregory the Great by Pope Benedict XVI the Cavaliere di Gran Croce of the Italian Republic, the German Verdienstkreuz, Officer of the Legion of Honour from the French, Knight Commander of the British Empire and the Salzburg Mozarteum awarded him its silver medal for his contribution to Mozart’s music.
Made an honorary citizen of Sydney last time he was in town, Riccardo Muti during his lifetime has conducted many great events perhaps none more prestigious than the opening concert for the celebrations of the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth in Salzburg at the Grosses Festspielhaus with the Vienna Philharmonic.
He became an honorary member of the orchestra he collaborated with for 47 years in 2011, and he is also an honorary member of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, the Vienna Hofmusikkapelle and the Vienna State Opera.
At the launch in Melbourne a fine trio of musicians led by Monica Curro (MSO and Plexus) on Violin, Francesco Celata on Clarinet and Bradley Voltz on Piano accordion heralded the announcement, dashing off some very impressive works by Gioachino Rossini, including the upbeat delicious Barber of Seville, as well as a splendid Tarantella that made those attending want to leap to their feet and dance with delight.
The repertoire announced for 2018 features German composer Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) Symphony 2 in D and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) Symphony 4 in F minor.
And, if we are very lucky, the eternally human, bold dramatic, full-bodied music by leading Italian opera composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) might also put in an appearance, Maestro Muti being a renowned Verdi specialist.
German composer Johannes Brahms was a master of the symphonic and sonata style during the second half of the nineteenth century.
Often viewed as a protagonist of the classical tradition, which included such luminary composers as Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven, Brahms was working during a period when the standards of this tradition were being questioned or overturned by the so-called romantics.
Pyotr Tchaikovsky rebelled against his family and their wish for him to become a lawyer when graduating from the St Petersburg Conservatory. He drew on both literary and dramatic sources for inspiration, his stirring Coronation March in D major composed for the Coronation of Tsar Alexander III in 1883 one of my all time favourites, especially when played on the grand organ. Tchaikovsky composed for Chamber Orchestra, Piano, Ballet and Opera, and his last completed Symphony, the ‘Pathétique’ was performed under his own direction shortly before his death in 1893.
Tchaikovsky’s Symphony 4 in F minor commissioned by Nadezhda von Meck his wealthy widowed backer, premiered with the composer’s mentor Nikolay Rubinstein conducting. It has an ominous opening fanfare which when stridently sounded by horns and bassoons represents melancholy pathos, which changes to be irresistibly positive by the finale.
He said, “Never yet has any of my orchestral works cost me so much labour, but I’ve never yet felt such love for any of my things. Perhaps I’m mistaken, but it seems to me that this symphony is better than anything I’ve done so far”.
Words sure to be echoed in the Australian World Orchestra’s performance in 2018. Bookings open soon, be quick.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2017
Brahms Symphony 2
Tchaikovsky Symphony 4