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And so to the Festival Farewell in St James on Sunday morning, a full house (about 500) for Mozart, Lekeu and Brahms.

That second composer again? Guillaume Lekeu. Belgian, born 1870, student of Cesar Franck, died at the age of 24 -- one of music's might-have-beens -- and no, I hadn't heard of him either. His Piano Quartet was a dense, powerful piece of late Romanticism, an impressive achievement for one so young.

Diana Doherty sparkled through Mozart's Oboe Quartet and the Goldner Quartet joined Pascal Rogé for Brahms' Piano Quintet Op 34, which made a very fitting end to the festival with its reflective slow movement and upbeat ending.

And it was all over for another year bar the farewelling.

Theodore Kuchar with members of the Janácek Philharmonic Orchestra. Photo courtesy of the AFCM, 2006
Theodore Kuchar with members of the Janácek Philharmonic Orchestra. Photo courtesy of the AFCM, 2006

The big farewell, of course, was Theodore Kuchar's at the end of his last concert in his last festival as Director. The Chair of the AFCM Board and the Vice-chancellor of the university which largely financed the first Australian Festival of Chamber Music spoke of his overwhelmingly important contribution to the creation and continued success of the festival. Kuchar said in reply that the AFCM constituted the longest professional association of his career and that he was happy with what he had done here but had no regrets about moving on since the future of the festival was secure in good hands.

In fact the AFCM now seems solidly established despite what might seem a inauspiciously isolated location. Here we are, a couple of thousand kilometres from the nearest city of more than 100,000 people, and we have just enjoyed ten days of music -- forty events, eighty performers from Australia, Europe and America, and eighty works including twenty premières. It is a great achievement. The three most important factors behind it are probably Kuchar's contribution, the sustained efforts of the local committee and the tropical setting which guarantees wonderful weather and exotic sight-seeing at a time when all of Australia's major cities are wishing winter would go away. Piers Lane will doubtless shift the emphasis but the structure is so successful that it is unlikely to change significantly.

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Copyright © 11 July 2006 Malcolm Tattersall, Townsville, Australia

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