Theme & Variations Foundation 2018 awards announced

This year we publicised the awards to all conservatoria in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and ACT, inviting applications for assistance from our foundation.

Applications closed on October 5 and our auditions took place on November 11. We had five finalists each to play a thirty-minute program for an independent artistic assessment panel of Professor Michael Brimer and Professor John Luxton.

We are pleased to announce this year’s award recipients are Leanne Jin and Annie Ma. The assessment panel was impressed by the very high level of the performances of both pianists. Their respective recitals established excellent technical and textural control from the outset, fine tonal graduation at all dynamic levels, with warm cantabile of the melodic lines, rhythmic, dynamic playing and a sure understanding of the architectural and musical direction of each work.

Leanne Jin

Leanne Jin is nineteen years old and currently completing a Bachelor of Music (Performance) at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, studying with Natalia Ricci. She is planning a career as a concert pianist and chamber musician. She intends to apply the award towards international competitions and masterclasses next year in both the United States and Europe.
Leanne is also the 2018 Winner of the Theme & Variations Emerging Artists Series.

To see Leanne perform, please click this YouTube link



Annie Ma

Annie Ma is 19, currently completing a Bachelor of Music (Performance) at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Annie also studies with Natalia Ricci. She plans to use her Theme and Variations Foundation Award to help her with her current studies at the Sydney Conservatorium and further her studies in Europe or the USA, and to assist in covering travel costs, competitions and audition and masterclass expenses in Australia and internationally.

To see Annie perform, please click this YouTube link


Theme & Variations Foundation 2018 awards announced2019-02-18T23:21:33+00:00

An outstanding concert by three past winners

On October 30 2018 we held our annual major fundraising musical event. This time we asked three of our brilliant young award recipients to put together a joint recital. We wanted to show our donors just how worthwhile their support is, and that only with their generosity can the Theme & Variations Foundation discover and financially assist such exceptional young Australian pianists.

While not all of our winners will become professional concert pianists, there is no doubt that they will make significant contributions to Australia’s musical life.

2014 award recipient, Pavle Cajic, demonstrated that he is already an accomplished pianist when he played a transcription of Mozart’s Symphony No 41. Then he delighted the audience with a performance of his own composition, Ballade for flute and piano. Sydney Conservatorium student Chloe Chung played the demanding flute part of what is a milestone composition in this genre. Professor Michael Brimer commended the two performers for playing this 17-minute piece from memory, demonstrating their commitment and skill.

Rachael Shipard, one of our recipients from last year, showed her growing maturity and technique when she began with a Haydn sonata and followed it with Busoni’s 10 Variations on a Theme of Chopin, a fearsomely challenging and seldom heard work she ‘discovered’ herself.

The third pianist, another award recipient from 2017, was Calvin Abdiel who performed a variety of short piano works by Albeniz, Liszt, Scarlatti and Bizet. He then blew the audience away with his Scriabin Sonata No 5. One seasoned music lover declared he’d never heard it played better.

The three young pianists then finished with a surprise by all sitting down together at one piano and playing Rachmaninov’s Romance for six hands from his Valse et Romance (for piano six hands).

The evening concluded with a light supper during which time our audience members had an excellent opportunity to chat with each of the three performers. This was a delightful evening, and our young performers impressed everyone with their artistry and their enthusiasm.

Music review by Fraser Beath McEwing
Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, Sydney Symphony Orchestra
29 August 2018

An outstanding concert by three past winners2019-02-11T22:42:13+00:00

Oscar Wong – 2017 award recipient

Last year in December I was also fortunate to become a prize winner in the Japan Open International Piano Competition. This event was part of 11 Ways to Malta, a series of piano competitions which ran across two years around the world which included over 730 pianists from 11 different countries to participate in the Malta International Piano Competition. The top five performers from each of the 11 countries were selected to perform in Malta. And so, here I was for the first time in Europe! It turned out to be a thoroughly emotional and memorable trip filled with good food, good wine and great music! 

The competition was divided into three rounds, a 20 minute recital, 50 minute recital and a concerto round. In both recital rounds we were required to perform works by local Maltese composers, Alexey Shor and Joseph Vella. Sadly Mr Vella passed away earlier this year, and the festival performed his music throughout the two weeks to commemorate his life. I had previously performed the Childhood Memories suite by Alexey Shor, who commended my playing during the Japan Piano Open. 

There were 70 performers in the first stage, some extraordinary pianists who are prize winners in the Queen Elisabeth, Tchaikovsky and Chopin and competitions. Unfortunately I wasn’t one of the 40 to proceed to the recital round. However I have no regrets in my efforts, and I am already looking to the future. What I cherished on this occasion was the opportunity to listen to other performers. It was incredibly amusing to discover culture and their personalities which arose from their performances. Evidently, it is the pianist’s personality which is the most important factor in occasions such as competitions. 

I had the immense privilege to listen to my childhood idols including pianists Nikolai Lugansky performing Rachmaninoff’s Paganini Rhapsody and Grigory Sokolov in a recital of Haydn and Schubert. What a moving experience Sokolov’s recital was! His encore of Schubert’s Impromptu Op. 90-4 is a performance that will stay with me for my whole life. The festival also featured other maestros such as Maxim Vengerov, Narek Hakhnazaryan and our local hero Ray Chen, whom I met after his concert. 

I am indebted to the generous support from the Theme and Variations Foundation which enabled me to cover the cost of my flights to Malta. 

Warmest wishes,


Oscar Wong – 2017 award recipient2019-02-07T02:39:52+00:00
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