The Australian Festival of Chamber Music has announced its 2019 program, with Artistic Director Kathryn Stott’s second Festival with Chinese pipa virtuoso Wu Man, London-based Australian saxophonist Amy Dickson, Canadian-German cellist Johannes Moser and Estonian-born bassoonist Martin Kuuskmann among the international guests coming to Far North Queensland. The Festival takes place at venues across Townsville from July 26 to August 4.

Australian Festival of Chamber Music, AFCMAustralian Festival of Chamber Music. Photo supplied

“The 2019 Program is wrapped around the theme of ORIGINS, drawing on origins of the music, the composers and the artists,” Stott said. “An abundance of music features – from the 13th century to the present day – representing cultures from all around the world.”

“There is also a mini-focus on trios including giants like the Rachmaninov, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky Piano Trios alongside smaller gems by Sibelius, Koechlin and more,” Stott said.

Wu Man. Photo © Call the Shots Photography

One of the most exciting artists to come to Townsville, and making her AFCM debut, is renowned pipa virtuoso Wu Man, who was a founding member of the Silkroad Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma, and who has premiered new works by the likes of Philip Glass, Lou Harrison, Terry Riley, Bright Sheng and Tan Dun. She joins a line-up of artists, half of whom will be making their Festival debut.

Five artists will make their Australian debuts at this year’s AFCM – double bassist Roberto Carrillo-Garcia and oboist Rachael Clegg from the UK, violinist Alexandra Conunova from Moldova, and Dutch violinist Liza Ferschtman – while eight international artists will make their AFCM debut.

Lotte Betts-Dean. Photo © Ben Ealovega

A number of Australian artists will also be making their AFCM debut this year, including London-based mezzo-soprano Lotte Betts-Dean, pianist Aura Go, violinist Elizabeth Layton and flautist Sally Walker, as well as Sydney-based Finnish cellist Timo-Veikko Valve. Arcadia Winds, the Australian String Quartet and Ensemble Liaison will perform at the AFCM for the first time, joining Festival stalwarts, the Goldner String Quartet. Other returning Australians include saxophonist Amy Dickson, percussionist Timothy Constable, hornist Ben Jacks, violist Christopher Moore and harpsichordist Neal Peres Da Costa.

Also making his AFCM debut is the Festival’s 2019 Composer-in-Residence, Queensland-born composer and founder of Brisbane’s immersive art music collective ARGO, Connor D’Netto, who is currently based in London.

Connor D’Netto. Photo supplied

As for the music, the Festival will include five world premieres (including works by D’Netto and Australian composer Jessica Wells) and five Australian premieres – as well as plenty of well-loved works from the chamber music canon. “In a first for the festival, three unusual and large-scale chamber works will feature,” Stott said. “The Opening Night Concert, titled Creations, will include the Jean Françaix Dixtuor for wind and string quartets, while in the Closing concert, called Full Circle, we will feature the Joachim Raff Sinfonietta for double wind quintet – both will be incredible musical events.”

“On Friday August 2 as part of the Evening Series concert Homelands we will present the world premiere of Ye Xiaogang’s Gardenia, a movement for 11 mixed instruments including the pipa, clarinet, percussion, piano, French horn, oboe, violins and double bass – yet another exciting AFCM moment in musical history,” she said.

Alexandra Conunova. Photo supplied

Stott has also announced some new directions for the Festival, including a break from the popular Bach by Candlelight concerts. “We will give Bach by Candlelight a little breathing space in order to explore Baroque music from Italy and beyond with Baroque Around the Clock and Bellissimo Baroque, two highlights of the Sunset Series,” she said.

“The much-loved Families’ Concert will focus on storytelling for children and to add to this, I’ve commissioned a dramatic short story called The Final Hour so none of us are left out! The Final Hour will be performed in the glorious St James’ Cathedral, providing the perfect atmospheric backdrop to this musical work.”

There will be plenty of old favourites, including the ever-popular Concert Conversations and the mammoth Festival Farewell – not to mention a beautiful locale and North Queensland’s warm winter sun.

The Australian Festival of Chamber Music takes place in Townsville from July 26 to August 4