Live Review: Max Richter @ Sydney Opera House, Vivid LIVE

5 June 2023 | 10:51 am | Shaun Colnan

Vivid LIVE 2023 reached a crescendo on the weekend as Max Richter took to the stage alongside the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Max Richter Vivid LIVE | Photo Credit: Jordan Munns

Max Richter Vivid LIVE | Photo Credit: Jordan Munns (Supplied)

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Halfway through Vivid LIVE 2023, we may have reached a crescendo at the Concert Hall as Max Richter takes the stage alongside the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Matthew Lynch. A night of musical transcendence awaits, where the ethereal meets the emotive in a symphonic tapestry of sound. Richter's masterful compositions, infused with a unique blend of classical and contemporary elements, leave an indelible mark on the audience.

Richter moves through his ambient symphonic catalogue, including a snapshot of Sleep, his high-concept album released in 2015 designed to mirror (and be listened to during) an 8-hour sleep cycle. Though typically spanning eight and a half hours, Richter chose to mesmerise the audience by performing a condensed 15-minute section of this immersive symphony which he called “the most climactic moment”. (Though Australians will be treated once again to the show in full at Dark Mofo later this month in Tasmania). This artistic choice exemplified Richter's ability to distil the essence of his composition into a concentrated burst of dreamy sublimity. 

Photo Credit: Jordan Munns (Supplied)

The second half of the performance opens with Opus 2020, a breathtaking composition commissioned by the city of Bonn. Richter's description of it as "an ambient web of Mozart fragments" barely does justice to the sheer beauty that unfolds. The delicate interplay of melodies and harmonies creates a soundscape that is at once soothing and thought-provoking. The fragments of Mozart's genius, interwoven with Richter's own artistic vision, create a symphony that eclipses time and genre, enveloping the Concert Hall in a heady aura.

Exiles, a track commissioned by the Nederlands Dans Theater, reveals Richter's ability to convey profound emotions through his music. The piece embodies the anguish and tragedy of the migrant crisis, evoking a visceral response from the audience. The delicate yet powerful melodies tug at the heartstrings, expressing the depth of human suffering and resilience. Often, his lips curl, and he nods his head with poise as he plays slowly and deliberately, and the symphony and audience follow in their turn.

The closing track, On The Nature Of Daylight (Entropy), emerges as a crowd favourite, eliciting both awe and nostalgia. The haunting beauty of the composition sweeps through the Concert Hall, captivating many souls in attendance. The symphony of strings, punctuated by delicate piano notes, carries a profound sense of longing and introspection. It is a sonic journey that resonates with the audience, invoking a myriad of emotions and memories.

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Throughout the performance, Richter's collaboration with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra elevates the music to new heights. The orchestra's precision and artistry, guided by Richter's visionary direction, breathe life into every note and crescendo. The synergy between the composer and the orchestra is certainly there, and many revere the novel exchange with standing ovation and flowers at the show’s close: a real night at the opera.

Photo Credit: Jordan Munns (Supplied)