With the year drawing to a close, we look back over the classical music concerts that wowed our critics in 2019. With so much on offer, it was tough reducing our lists, but this is what we picked.


2019 Season Opening Gala (Sydney Symphony Orchestra)

Diana Doherty

The energising concert began with the famous sunrise in Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustraand ended in jubilant fashion with Percy Grainger’s The Warriors, music written for an imaginary ballet. In between, Diana Doherty reprised her breathtaking performance of Nigel Westlake’s oboe concerto, Spirit of the Wild, specially commissioned for her by the SSO, and inspired by the rugged wilds of Tasmania. The orchestra later recorded the workwith Steve Reich’s The Desert Music. Performing the piece from memory, the phenomenal Doherty gave a thrillingly agile, detailed, vital performance, radiating “rockstar panache” as Angus McPherson put it in his Limelightreview. A great start to the year.

Luminous (Australian Chamber Orchestra)

Bill Henson, Untitled 2003, courtesy of the artist, Tolarno Galleries and Roslyn Oxley Gallery

Leaving the ACO’s concert Luminous, I felt I was...