Sydney Opera House, Concert Hall
May 2, 2018

Riccardo Mutihas been cutting a (very elegant) swathe through concert halls and opera houses from Milan to Philadelphia for 40 years. The prospect of seeing and hearing him conduct a reunion of what must be the musical world’s greatest diaspora of talent certainly created a frisson. The program, on paper at least, seemed unambitiously mainstream: Brahms’ Second and Tchaikovsky’s Fourth symphonies. However, on closer inspection, it yielded far more interest. Both works could be called Romantic, both were composed virtually contemporaneously by composers who were also near contemporaries. Yet Brahms and Tchaikovsky were both, emotionally and idiomatically, polarities.

Riccardo Muti, Australian World Orchestra, AWO Riccardo Muti conducting the Australian World Orchestra. Photo © David Collins

Muti was a Young Turk, who succeeded Klemperer as Chief Conductor of London’s legendary Philharmonia Orchestra. He was renowned for rhythmic precision, Italianate intensity and whiplash attack, among other qualities. Only a musician of Muti’s stature could meld almost 100 musicians who normally perform in a wide range of music ensembles with varying stylistic requirements into not only a viable, but virtuosic, whole. It was fascinating to experience...