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From the famous Stradivarius to the ancient Sheng, magnificent music makers line up for the 2018 Australian Festival of Chamber Music

March 21, 2018

By Kath Rose

From an 1859 Jean-Baptise Vuillaume violin, to a famed Stradivarius made in 1703, a Ritter Viola from 1877 and a 1714 David Tecchler cello to the ancient Chinese Sheng, this year’s Australian Festival of Chamber Music (AFCM) in Townsville is set to attract not only the world’s leading chamber musicians, but some of the most magnificent music makers ever created.

With a musician line-up that is the who’s who of chamber music, and curated by the internationally acclaimed pianist Kathryn Stott, the 2018 AFCM will feature six world and 16 Australian premieres, with musicians flying to Townsville in North Queensland from all over the world. And, flying in a seat beside them will be their beloved – and in most cases – invaluable instruments.

A snapshot of the musicians and magnificent instruments of the 2018 AFCM include:

  • In a stunning coup for the AFCM, celebrated Chinese musician and master Sheng player Wu Tong will make his Australian debut in Townsville. The Sheng has a 3,000-year history in China and resembles a large mouth organ with a free reed and vertical pipes. He is a member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, was a member of the first rock band ever to appear on Chinese television and is the fourth generation in his family to play the Sheng.

  • Acclaimed Czech violinist Pavel Fischer will perform at the AFCM and is also the Director of the Festival’s Winterschool music education program. He plays a Joseph Gagliano violin.

  • In-demand soloist and chamber musician Karen Gomyo originally from Japan, now residing in Germany, is an avid fan of Argentine tango, having performed with legendary tango pianist Pablo Ziegler. She plays a “Aurora, ex-Foulis” Stradivarius violin made in 1703.

  • Rising Australian superstar, Grace Clifford, won the ABC Young Performer of the Year award, the biggest prize in Australia for classical musicians in 2014 at the age of 16, and she will be the youngest musician to perform at the AFCM. She plays a Jean-Baptise Vuillaume violin from 1859.

  • As a member of both the Goldner String Quartet and the Australia Ensemble@UNSW, Dimity Hall has performed, toured and recorded extensively and has appeared as soloist with the SSO and the ACO among others. She plays a Nicolo Gagliano violin.

  • Dene Olding is currently first violinist with the Goldner String Quartet and the Australia Ensemble@UNSW as well as Concertmaster Emeritus of the SSO and Artistic Advisor of Michael Hill International Violin Competition in NZ. Dene plays a Joseph Guarnerius violin made in 1720.

  • German-born Tobias Brieder is one of Australia’s most in-demand viola players in chamber music, plays internationally and is principal violist at the SSO. He plays a Ritter Viola from 1877.

  • Australian viola-player Irina Morozova is a foundation and current member of both the Australia Ensemble@UNSW and Goldner String Quartet and has performed in over 30 countries. She plays an AE Smith viola made in 1947.

  • Described as “the giant of the Nordic viola” Lars Anders Tomter from Norway has distinguished himself as one of the world’s leading violists. His repertoire embraces all major works for viola as well as new works written for him. He plays a Gasparo Salò da viola from 1590.

  • István Várdai from Hungary is the only cellist in the world to have won both the International Cello Competition in Geneva (2008) and the ARD Competition in Munich (2014) the two most important contests for cellists. He plays a Montagnana cello from 1720.

  • British cellist Guy Johnston won BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2000 and has since performed all over the world. Known also as an outstanding chamber musician, he is Artistic Director of the Hatfield House Chamber Music Festival. He plays a 1714 David Tecchler cello.

  • Australian cellist Howard Penny is currently Head of Strings at ANAM having been based in Europe for nearly 30 years. As a soloist, chamber musician, principal cello of chamber orchestras and teacher he has performed on five continents. He plays a cello by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume from 1850.

  • Julian Smiles’ diverse career as a cellist combining solo, chamber music and orchestral performance reaches national and international audiences. He is a member of the Goldner String Quartet and Australia Ensemble@UNSW. He plays a Lorenzo Ventapane cello from 1827.

More than 35 internationally acclaimed musicians will perform at the 2018 Australian Festival of Chamber Music, 21 artists will make their AFCM debut, including six artists performing in Australia for the very first time.

The 28th AFCM, will take place over 10 glorious days from Friday 27th July to Sunday 5th August, featuring more than 25 concerts and 5 special events, including a concert on the beach of Orpheus Island and one on Magnetic Island, as well as collaborations, conversations and masterclasses performed by the world’s best chamber musicians in churches, theatres and gardens throughout the North Queensland city. The program includes six morning Concert Conversations, five Sunset Series events, seven Evening Series concerts and Winterschool masterclasses and performances.

Special events include the Opening Night Concert titled Lift Off!, the Governor’s Gala on Saturday evening July 28 titled Exotic Excursions, the much-anticipated free Queens Garden Concert hosted by Mairi Nicholson as well as the Families’ Concert, the extraordinary concert experience on Orpheus Island and the Festival Farewell which celebrates 2018 with a concert called Magical Connections. The AFCM is famed for its musicality, wintersun, artist accessibility and friendliness.

Australian Festival of Chamber Music: 27 July – 5 August 2018 | Townsville, North Queensland | Facebook | Twitter | #afcm18

AFCM principal partners include; Queensland Government through Tourism and Events Queensland and Arts Queensland, and Townsville City Council. The multi-award winning Australian Festival of Chamber Music is recognised as a major event on the Tourism and Events Queensland calendar. The Queensland Government is proud to support the Australian Festival of Chamber Music through Tourism and Events Queensland as part of the It’s Live! in Queensland events calendar. Queensland, just the place to experience Australia’s best live events.

For more information, artists interviews or imagery, comment etc, please contact Kath Rose for the AFCM on 07 3357 9054 or 0416 291 493 or email

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