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Nephew follows in famous conductor's footstep -

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Nephew follows in famous conductor's footsteps

Reporter: Rebecca Baillie

KERRY O'BRIEN: There have been many shining lights in Australian classical music - the Dames - Joan
Sutherland and Nellie Melba - Percy Grainger and Peter Sculthorpe. But many consider Sir Charles
Mackerras the greatest of all. For 60 years, he has conducted some of the world's most famous
orchestras and has been the resident conductor of the Sydney Symphony. Now under his mentorship,
his nephew is carrying on a proud tradition. At 37, Alexander Briger has also conducted some of the
world's finest orchestras. One childhood wish has eluded him, though - until this week. Rebecca
Baillie reports.

ALEXANDER BRIGER, CONDUCTOR: It's a fantastic opera house. I've wanted to walk out onto that
platform to conduct the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, all my life. That concert hall in Sydney is just
so incredible, the way it steeps up. So, for me, it's very special.

REBECCA BAILLIE: For Alexander Briger, conducting the Sydney Symphony for his debut in the hallowed
Opera House Concert Hall, is something of a date with destiny. 33 years ago, his uncle, Sir Charles
Mackerras, conducted the gala opening of this very hall. Sir Charles Mackerras has been hailed as
one of Australia's most famous cultural exports. With a leading world maestro as his mentor,
Alexander Briger is learning the tricks of the trade from the very best.

ALEXANDER BRIGER: He's had a huge influence on me. It was him that I saw conducting the Sydney
Symphony Orchestra and I thought, "That's what I want to do."

SIR CHARLES MACKERRAS: Although, of course, he's very much his own man, I presume that he has been
influenced in his technique and so on, somewhat by me. In fact, some of the orchestras that he
works with now in London have said that it reminds them very much of me when I was his age.

REBECCA BAILLIE: Both are products of one of Australia's great musical dynasties. This opera score
was written by their ancestor, Isaac Nathan, in the 1840s. Believed to have been Australia's first
professional musician, Isaac Nathan is credited with importing the country's first ever grand

SIR CHARLES MACKERRAS: I suppose you could say that there is quite a big music gene running in our

ALEXANDER BRIGER: And then, of course, there are the family traits which, you know, we can't
escape. It's within every family.

REBECCA BAILLIE: Alexander Briger's success at home has been a long time coming. He left Australia
15 years ago to pursue a career in Europe.

ALEXANDER BRIGER: In a place like the United Kingdom, everybody knows everybody. And so if you are
based there, your name does travel around a lot quicker. If you're here, nobody - unfortunately
nobody knows who you are over there.

REBECCA BAILLIE: Despite his musical pedigree, Alexander Briger found his relationship to Sir
Charles Mackerras meant he was initially treated with suspicion.

ALEXANDER BRIGER There was always this sort of wariness about, "Well, he's Mackerras's nephew, so
how's that going to work out?" And I think a lot of orchestras were a bit kind of standoffish at
first. Thankfully, it's turned out the opposite.

REBECCA BAILLIE: Alexander Briger's resume boasts some of Europe's finest orchestras, from the
London Philharmonic to the English National Opera. But his first big break came when the principal
conductor of the London Philharmonia fell ill.

ALEXANDER BRIGER: They needed someone at short term to come in at two days' notice and I stepped in
and conducted Beethoven's Heroica symphony and that went very well.

RICHARD HICKOX, MUSIC DIRECTOR, OPERA AUSTRALIA: He's clearly got many first chances through Sir
Charles Mackerras, but the good thing is that you can't get a second chance that way. So he is
actually making it on his own and that's the important thing.

REBECCA BAILLIE: Richard Hickox is long established on the British conducting scene. Now the music
director of Opera Australia, he's invited Alexander Briger back to guest conduct the opera later
this year.

RICHARD HICKOX: I've brought over Italians, I've brought over English, American, but where I can
possibly pick an Australian, I will. And Alex was one of three or four names from Australia that I
think are going to have a great future.

REBECCA BAILLIE: For Alexander Briger, the world is at his feet. Having gained the respect of
orchestras here and overseas, he's maintaining his family's proud tradition by sharing the thrill
of music with audiences around the world.

ALEXANDER BRIGER: To have the absolute control over it and mould what you feel into the orchestra
and then they transmit that out into the audience, so hopefully everyone in the audience also gets
what you are feeling in here. That's the aim, of course.