Once a year, Australia’s greatest orchestral talent reunites for a season of performances that capture the soul of music.
In May of 2018, that time will come again.
Celebrated as one of the greatest in the world, the Australian World Orchestra (AWO) brings 100 artists from 50 national and international locations together under the baton of a revered conductor.
This year, it is Italian Maestro Riccardo Muti who will lead the AWO in Brahms’ second symphony and Tchaikovsky’s fourth. The three concerts – taking place on May 2nd and 4th at the Sydney Opera House, followed by a final show at Melbourne’s Hamer Hall on the 5th – come 15 years after Muti last conducted in Australia.
The 76 year-old has led some of the world’s greatest orchestras, including New York, Berlin, and Vienna. He’s also served as the Musical Director for the Philadelphia Orchestra (1980-1992), Teatro alla Scala (1986-2005) and, currently, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. There, he conducts AWO trombonist Michael Mulcahy, who tells us what it’s like to perform under the maestro.
“When Muti enters the stage, the room changes”, he says. “(He) has an palpable temperament that brings intensity and commitment to sound production, sustaining the line and approaching the music with humility and reverence.”
Alexander Briger AO founded the AWO in 2011, and has selected its guest conductors ever since. He too holds deep reverence for Muti’s unique energy.
“(Muti has) charisma! And with that an aura that one cannot put into words. When one is surrounded by that sort of soul you automatically give your very best.”
It’s an aura that captures not just the orchestra, but the entire hall, elevating a Muti concert into a truly unforgettable experience.
“You must live it to understand it.”
Knowing that this season will likely mark Muti’s last time in Australia, there’s a notable sense of privilege shared by the musicians, who take part in the concerts at Briger’s invitation. In seven years, 250 musicians have performed with the AWO, instilling within them a deep sense of camaraderie and respect.
Briger says the first day everyone comes together often inspires literal tears of joy.
“Everyone shares so many stories, and many grew up together. It’s a huge reunion…where egos are left at the door. All they want to do is play their hearts out, make the best possible sound and, of course, have fun! This orchestra is no ‘day job’! It’s something all of them want to do, something they all look forward, something they all long to be a part of.”
Mulcahy echoes the sentiment.
“The Australian World Orchestra is a miracle. Not just a high functioning precision machine, but a living organism that is the result of a unique energy stemming from our shared Australian heritage.”
Alongside veteran performers, every season sees emerging talent join the orchestra. This year it is Molly Collier-O’Boyle, a violin and viola player, who has received the honour.
The invitation marks a major step on a career path that started when Collier-O’Boyle first picked up a violin at the age of six. In the 17 years since, she has practiced for a minimum of four hours a day. Though she admits some days proved harder than others, it was her love for playing in an ensemble and creating a shared experience through music that kept her going, and has made her a perfect fit for the AWO.
“I grew up playing different musical genres in a variety of ensembles from jazz bands and folk and rock groups, as well as going through the Queensland Youth Orchestra ensembles and many other orchestral projects and programs around Australia. There’s nothing quite like a large group of people from different walks of life working together to achieve the same goal.”
When Briger created the AWO, he wanted it to be what he fondly refers to as “the Socceroos of Australian music” – a collection of the best (and often underappreciated) orchestral musicians the country has to offer. With the likes of Mulcahy and Collier-O’Boyle taking the stage under the direction of Muti, there’s no doubt he’s accomplished his goal.
Riccardo Muti and the Australian World Orchestra:
Wed, May 2nd – 7.00pm – Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House
Fri, May 4th – 8.00pm – Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House
Sat, May 5th – 7.30pm – Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne
Tickets are available now from www.australianworldorchestra.com.au