Violinist Lily Higson-Spence and pianist Stefan Cassomenos, both former students of the Australian National Academy of Music and rising stars nationally and internationally, opened the first full day of the inaugural Bendigo Chamber Music Festival in the dry acoustics of the Forest Street Uniting Church with a European program spanning the 19th and 20th centuries. The Melbourne-trained Higson-Spence, lately of Berlin and Salzberg, offered a lively interpretation of Schubert’s Grand Duo Violin Sonata No 4 in A Major, with the talented Cassomenos providing ample support as the second half of the duo. In a venue with a close, intimate sound, arrangements of two well-loved French pieces – Fauré’s Après un rêveand, of course, Debussy’s Clair de Lune– were delicate and carefully realised, much to the audience’s delight. The morning recital concluded with Higson-Spence taking on one of Eugène Ysaÿe’s notoriously difficult solo violin sonatas. In this case, a rousing presentation of the fifth in Ysaÿe’s set of six, just as dazzling and horrifying as the more infamous third, revealed Higson-Spence’s technical artistry. The young violinist appears again in Friday’s program alongside festival co-director Chris Howlett on cello for Dvořák and Munro piano trios.

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