Three penetrating, bell-like tones from the aluphone raised the curtain on Sir James MacMillan’s Second Percussion Concerto, given its Australian premiere here by Claire Edwardes and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Robertson. The striking sound, immediately drawing attention to the work’s ecclesiastical patina, was a unifying feature across the Scottish composer’s sprawling, single-movement concerto. The work follows his first percussion concerto, 1992’s Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, and was written for Scottish percussionist Colin Currie who gave the premiere in 2014.

Edwardes gave a performance both captivating and precise. From the opening gesture, she launched into urgent marimba lines – accompanied by smears of muted brass –augmented in the playing of two other marimbists at the back of the orchestra, creating a vividly three-dimensional effect. Edwardes deftly weaved between marimba, vibraphone, drums, untuned metal instruments, cencerros(tuned cowbells) and steel drum across the work’s sections, the concerto reaching its climax in a powerful brass chorale, Edwardes glittering on aluphone and vibes, Robertson dispatching accents with precise stabs.

The concert began with Australian composer Brett Dean’s Engelsflügel(Wings of Angels), originally written for wind symphony but adapted for orchestra by the composer in memory of Berlin Philharmonic production manager Kai-Bernhard Schmidt. This version was...