Three plucked chords from Joseph Tawadros’ oud hung in the air of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, before the virtuoso, alone on stage, began building up the texture, his music grounded by the repeated knell of a bass string. Taqasim Kord, an improvisatory work using the Arabic mode kord– analogous to Western music’s Phrygian mode – immersed the audience in the sound world of the Cairo-born Australian musician and composer’s instrument, a short-necked Middle Eastern lute.

Joseph Tawadros James Tawadros, Joseph Tawadros, Benjamin Northey and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Photo © Daniela Testa

The multi-award winning Tawadros has made a career of blurring the boundaries between middle-eastern classical music, contemporary jazz and Western classical music, and is known for his easy-going stage presence and quick-witted banter – all of which he brought to the Opera House in spades in this concert with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Just as the texture of the opening number built gradually, so too did the concert evolve. James Tawadros joined his brother on the Egyptian Req – a type of tambourine – for a number from the 2009 album The Prophet: Music Inspired by the Poetry of Khalil Gibran, inspired...