Sir Simon Rattle said conducting them was “like lassoing galaxies” and Zubin Mehta described them as one of the great orchestras, but it was back to basics with the Australian World Orchestra’s all-too-brief latest tour with one concert in Melbourne and one in Sydney under the baton of Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Alexander Briger.

Alexander Briger conducts the Australian World Orchestra. Photo © Prudence Upton

Stripped back though it may have been compared with previous tours, the man who founded this unique ensemble 12 years ago hauled in some pretty amazing constellations with a remarkable performance of arguably the greatest symphony of them all, Mahler’s massive 9th.

The 100 musicians on stage embodied Mackerras’s belief: “We are a nation of very closely knit and talented musicians. Bringing them from around the globe will produce an orchestra of the highest quality with a truly unique and Australian sound. What an exciting prospect!”

Briger aims for a thicker German string sound, and in this performance he achieved it, perhaps because several of the players are regulars with European outfits, including Concertmaster Natalie Chee, who is presently leading the Gürzenich Orchestra, Cologne and...