Alexander Briger was born in Sydney and attended the Sydney Grammar School, where his uncle Alastair Mackerras was the headmaster. He had his first violin lessons there. He was inspired to become a conductor at age 12, when he saw another uncle, Sir Charles Mackerras, conduct the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in Mahler's Fourth Symphony. He left Grammar in 1987, then continued his violin studies at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. In 1991 he went to the Richard Strauss Conservatorium in Munich to undertake a post-graduate degree in conducting. He won first prize at the International Competition for Conductors in the Czech Republic in 1993. He won the right to study under Pierre Boulez at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 2000. He has since worked extensively with Boulez and with Sir Charles Mackerras. Boulez introduced Briger to Simon Rattle, who invited him to conduct the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. He and his family moved to London in 1998.
In 2002 he filled in for the scheduled conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, who was taken ill. He also appeared at the BBC Proms and the Berlin Festival with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group that year. He was invited to take the London Philharmonic Orchestra on a tour of China in 2004. That same year he conducted Britten's The Rape of Lucretia at Covent Garden, becoming only the fourth Australian to conduct there, after Mackerras, Richard Bonynge and Simone Young. He also conducted Mozart's The Magic Flute at the Glyndebourne Festival. In 2005 he made his debut with the Orchestre de Paris.
Briger's work with Opera Australia includes Jenůfa, Madama Butterfly, Così fan tutte, The Cunning Little Vixen, The Marriage of Figaro, and Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream. He has also led La bohème for the State Opera of South Australia.
He conducted Don John of Austria, Australia's first opera, written by his great-great-great-great grandfather Isaac Nathan, in its first performance since Nathan's time. This was a concert performance in 1997, arranged by Sir Charles Mackerras (Nathan's great-great-great grandson). He has since recorded the work on CD.
His overseas operatic work includes Rigoletto and The Makropulos Case (English National Opera), The Cunning Little Vixen (Aix-en-Provence), From the House of the Dead (Canadian Opera), The Tales of Hoffmann (Royal Danish Opera), The Bartered Bride (Royal Swedish Opera), The Queen of Spades (Komische Oper Berlin), and the Bartók ballets The Miraculous Mandarin and The Wooden Prince (Opéra national du Rhin).
The list of other orchestras Alexander Briger has conducted includes the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Berlin Symphony Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Danish Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, Frankfurt Radio Orchestra, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Salzburg Mozarteum, Salzburg Camerata, Ensemble InterContemporain, Japanese Virtuoso Symphony, Monte Carlo Philharmonic, London Sinfonietta, Hanover Band, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, RTE Orchestra, Dublin, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, Paris Chamber Orchestra, Ensemble InterContemporain, Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, Konzerthaus Orchester, Berlin, Frankfurt Radio Orchestra, SWR Sinfonieorchester, Stuttgart, Nordwestdeutscherundfunk Orchester, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Salzburg Mozarteum, Salzburg Camerata, Belgium National Orchestra, Flemish Radio Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Danish Symphony Orchestra, Orquesta Nacional do Porto, Japanese Virtuoso Symphony Orchestra. In his native Australia he has conducted the Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, West Australian, Queensland and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras. In 2010 he founded the Australian World Orchestra (AWO), a project to bring leading expatriate Australian orchestral players from around the world home to Australia to play together with the leading resident players in a single ensemble.
In 2010 he launched the Australian World Orchestra, a project to bring leading expatriate Australian orchestral players from around the world home to Australia to play together with the leading resident players in a single ensemble. In 2011 he conducted their award-winning inaugural season at the Sydney Opera House with Beethoven's 9th Symphony, which was subsequently released on Deutsche Grammophon. He is currently Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the AWO and Sydney Youth Orchestras.
In 2016 Alexander Briger was awarded the 'Order of Australia' (AO) for services to the Arts as a Leading International Conductor and Founder of the AWO.
Alexander Briger's premieres include:
- Arvo Pärt's Lamentate
- Simon Holt's Who put Bella in the Wych’elm (Aldeburgh Festival and Almeida Opera)
- Liza Lim's The Compass, for didgeridoo and flute
- James Ledger's Arcs and Planes
- works by Mark-Anthony Turnage and Bruno Mantovani.
- Rebecca Baillie (24 August 2006). "The 7:30 Report / Nephew follows in famous conductor's footsteps". Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
- A dream comes true, Sydney Morning Herald, 22 August 2006
- SSO Media Release
- "It's a family affair / Sydney Symphony celebrates Australia’s most distinguished musical family when Sir Charles Mackerras returns for two concert programs & Alex Briger conducts "Don John of Austria"" (PDF). Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
- Grammar Foundations, Newsletter of the Sydney Grammar School Foundation, Issue 33, November 2005
- Arts Management (dead link)
- Allied Artists
- Patricia Maunder (16 July 2010). "Scion of an Australian dynasty conducted for the whole world". Brisbane Times.
- Inaugural manoeuvres of two new orchestras, The Australian, 19 August 2010