An Indo-western ensemble
In the video played before his introduction, Alexander Briger was a different person. Certainly not the calm, smiling person on the dais. Ecstatically waving baton guiding the ensemble of musicians before him, he appears euphoric; so do his quivering magical fingers and dancing hair.
“On the stage with the audience across, you are the focal point. You are controlling everything, the speed, dynamics, interpretations, etc. You are like the coach standing outside the field during the ongoing World Cup,” says Briger, one of Australia’s preeminent conductors, who was in Kochi recently to make an announcement – that the city would host its very first Western Classical Music concert.Conducted by Briger’s Australian World Orchestra (AWO), the event, which will be held at Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty on September 25, will see famous Australian violinist Daniel Dodds and French Mezzo-Soprano Miss Caroline Meng performing before the 2,500-odd crowd.
The AWO project brings home leading expatriate Australian orchestral players from around the world to play together with the leading resident players in a single ensemble.
“I’m very excited. The audience will really love the concert. Being their first time, we are planning it as a lighter event.
A lot of classical music for the first time can be too much. There won’t be speaker boxes or mics,” details the famous conductor, who has worked with maestros Zubin Mehta, Pierre Boulez and Sir Charles Mackerras.
A recipient of the Order of Australia for his services to music as a leading conductor in 2016, Briger has performed in Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai as part of the AWO India Tour.
Talking about the reception to classical music all over the world, he says, “In Mumbai, the symphony orchestra performance had a very large audience, of course, second to Zubin Mehta. In Delhi, Western Classical Music is slowly growing. Europe, America and Australia are a growing market; Singapore and China have a huge market as well."
“It’s becoming more influential than earlier, growing like a tsunami. In Japan and China, classical music is getting government financial backing. In the West, tragically, music education is not getting much importance at present.”
Western classical music, he says, grows on one as it comes with different emotions. “Different eras are blended in – renaissance, romanticism, classical, post-modernism, impressionism. Music stirs more emotions in human beings and carries them to another era,” the passion is evident in his voice.
Briger surprises one, saying that it’s ok for people to hate Western Classical music. “Music stirs emotions, and sometimes, it can be hatred too,” he laughs.
The upcoming event in Kochi has another speciality too – the proceeds of the concert would go towards the welfare of children on the autism spectrum.
Committed to music education, the AWO, founded in 2010, provides master classes to young classical musicians and outreach workshops to children who have little exposure to classical music.
“Earlier, we have performed for slum kids in Delhi and Mumbai. They have never even heard of classical music. Seven of us went to the slums with musical instruments and performed at schools. The impressed kids and parents took us to their homes where we left a few instruments for them to train,” he says.
With autistic kids, it’s going to be an entirely different experience. “The concert is being planned to suit them. Belinda McFarlane of London Symphony Orchestra is preparing the nursery rhymes and stories to be performed for the kids on autism. We expect over 300 children to come over,” says Briger, who is a specialist in the works of Janácek, Mozart and contemporary music. Kerala, he says, is a wonderful place. “I love the ambience, and I expect the people here to love the music we bring here,” he concludes.