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So far Anita Levy has created 42 blog entries.

The master and two apprentices

The Theme & Variations Foundation’s main fundraising event took a different direction this year when our ambassador, Alexander Gavrylyuk, conducted a master class with two promising young Sydney student pianists, Jake Cheong and Leanne Jin.

Held in the Theme and Variations Piano Services Willoughby showroom on 27 November, it attracted an audience interested to hear the technical and interpretive skills that divide good performers from great performers.

Both students played Prokofiev, a composer favoured by Alexander in his repertoire and instinctively felt by him on a cultural level. While millions of people have heard Alexander play (always to rave reviews, these days) few would have witnessed his ability as a teacher and communicator. He combined humour, kindness, and a wealth of musical advice to the two students as he commented on their playing, often demonstrating his points with his own playing. It was here that the unspoken difference between ‘on the way’ and ‘arrived’ came through. These two students were leaders among the emerging crop of young Sydney classical pianists, both having won significant recent competitions and awards. While they played their chosen Prokofiev works admirably, the passages Alexander replayed for demonstration came from another dimension. His technique was simply astonishing to say nothing of his powers of interpretation.

We live in a world of achievement ladders, acknowledging the rungs above us and often aspiring to reach them. It was never more clearly demonstrated than in this master class. So many of us in the audience would have loved to play as well as Jake and Leanne. But above them, virtually as high as you can go, sits Alexander Gavrylyuk.

The master and two apprentices2020-03-12T23:11:31+00:00

Leanne Jin – ‘Piano Woman’ scoops prize pool

From The University of Sydney, Sydney Conservatorium of Music

Sydney Conservatorium of Music student on a winning streak

Pianist Leanne Jin has picked up three prestigious prizes in just two months, including first prize in the Lev Vlassenko Piano Competition.

Leanne Jin, dubbed “the Piano Woman” by Sydney Eisteddfod, has enjoyed a year of outstanding success. In the second year of a Bachelor of Music at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Jin has already won three major piano competitions in 2019.

In July, Jin took out first prize in the prestigious Lev Vlassenko Piano Competition, one of the most important in Australasia.

The article goes on to say…  Leanne could not have achieved these successes “without the endless support of my wonderful teacher, Natalia Ricci, the Theme and Variations Foundation and my family and friends”.

Read the full article here

Leanne Jin – ‘Piano Woman’ scoops prize pool2019-09-23T04:24:10+00:00

Michael Brimer talks about music and its creators

The Board of Theme & Variations foundation invites you and your friends to a stimulating series of four evening discussions for lovers of classical music.

One of Australia’s most distinguished pianists and musicologists, Professor Michael Brimer will give a series of four informal talks in September 2019 about the classical composers recently voted by ABC listeners as the most popular. They are Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Tchaikovsky.

The talks will be held at the Theme & Variations showroom in Willoughby on the four Wednesday evenings in September. They will be a fundraiser for the Theme & Variations Foundation which assists talented young Australian pianists who need financial help to achieve their goals.

Those of us who have heard Michael speak know him as a wonderful story teller with a vast knowledge of all forms of music. He illustrates his talks with demonstrations at the piano, the instrument that has taken him to the top of performing, especially in Australia. As a pianist, Michael has performed 25 different piano concertos, two organ concertos and countless solo recitals as well as being an outstanding teacher.

Michael’s talks will not be lectures for students sitting for music exams, but rather for lovers of classical music. They will cover the times, compositional styles and sometimes quirky lives of the famous four composers.

These entertaining talks are a must for anybody who wants to increase their understanding, and therefore enjoyment, of classical music and its composers.



Please join us for this series of four talks. Arrive at 6pm for a cup of tea or coffee and a pastry, and we’ll begin at 6.30pm. Please reserve your place by emailing us with your payment details.

Dates: Wednesday 4,11,18 and 25 September 2019

Time: 6.00pm for 6.30 start. Talks close at 7.45 p.m.

Venue: Theme & Variations Showroom 451 Willoughby Road, Willoughby 2068

Bookings:  $125 per person for the full program over four evenings.

1. Make an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) to our bank account:
Amount:                        $125.00 per ticket
Bank:                               Westpac
Account name:            T&V Foundation Limited
BSB:                                 032 199
Account number:        304 680

Please note: It is essential that you include your full name on the deposit so we can track your payment easily. We will send you a receipt when your payment arrives.

Please email this form to anita@generator.net.au the same day you make your EFT payment: –


Name: ________________________________________________________

Email: _________________________________________________________

Phone: ________________________________________________________

Number of tickets:  ____  @ $125.00 each   :    Total $ _____________


2. Mastercard or Visa card:

Please email your details to anita@generator.net.au or call 0409 300 490 to pay over the phone.


The Theme & Variations Foundation Board would like to thank you sincerely for your support.


Michael Brimer talks about music and its creators2020-03-16T00:02:04+00:00

Annie Ma – 2018 Recipient

In early March of this year, I was extremely fortunate to receive an invitation to perform at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie, New York as a first prize winner in the Golden Classical Music Awards International Competition. Carnegie Hall is undoubtedly one of the most prestigious concert halls in the world and frequently exclusive to performances by internationally acclaimed musicians, so of course I was overjoyed and humbled to be given this opportunity, as well as being excited to travel to New York City for the first time. 

I had chosen to perform Leos Janacek’s Piano Sonata 1.X.1905 ‘From the Street’. This is a rarely performed work in the piano repertoire. However its potent narrative and the challenge in communicating this was what had initially drawn me to learn it. Janacek composed this sonata as a tribute to a worker who was shot by political troops amidst demonstrations in support of a university on 1st October 1905 in Brno, which he himself witnessed. The titles themselves of the movements – Predtucha ( Foreboding ) and Smrt ( Death ) – already allude to its emotional intensity. 

On the day of the performance nerves were inevitable, but in the end my goal was to communicate to the audience the narrative that Janacek had intended, to make them feel the depth of emotions behind this piece of music and of course to enjoy the experience on this special stage. 

International competitions always offer the opportunity to interact with musicians with different musical upbringings and experiences and to be inspired by one another’s mentality towards music-making. Feeding off the positive and restless energy that musicians have for their craft further increases my own ambitions to create better interpretations and performances every time I am onstage. 

This exciting opportunity and worthwhile experience could only be made possible with the assistance of the Theme & Variations Foundation Award. I would like to extend my gratitude to the Foundation for its generosity in continuously opening new doors for us as young pianists.


Annie Ma – 2018 Recipient2019-05-07T03:13:39+00:00

Calvin Abdiel – 2017 Recipient

Thank you for the kind support that the Theme and Variations Foundation has given me through the scholarship. It had really helped me to improve my opportunities as an aspiring performer and artist.

I am grateful to be selected as one of the 42 contestants out of 174 electronic applications for the Aarhus Competition in Denmark. It was a very worthwhile experience; I met contestants from the well-known conservatories around the world, including RAM, Curtis and Eastman. The competition was very well organised; as we arrive at the competition office, we were all given a timetable (akin to the complexity of the London Underground timetable) outlining our spaced-out practice times. We were all assigned a letter and number combination for our identity in the timetable. There was a high degree of professionalism in the competition, including in the high quality of the contestants.

The competition is unique in its adoption of rules from large international competitions. Firstly, it only gives 10 minutes of warm-up time for the 1st round and no warm-up time for the 2nd round. It tests the contestants whether they can adjust to the piano in a short amount of time, which had a heavy touch in this competition. The voting system is also based on large professional competitions, where each competitor receives a Yes or No vote for their performance. This eliminates the chance of mark manipulation during the competition process.

In the competition itself, I progressed to the Semi-Finals but unfortunately didn’t make it to the Finals. Nevertheless, I have learned valuable lessons in competing at such high standards. Most importantly, I have made personal connections with international competitors which (hopefully) will last in my lifetime.

For Calvin’s outstanding performances, click here for Round 1; and click here for Round 2.

Calvin Abdiel – 2017 Recipient2019-05-07T03:00:18+00:00

Leanne to play at 2019 Canberra International Music Festival

As part of this year’s Theme & Variations Foundation award, Leanne Jin, one of our two recipients, has been invited to participate in the 2019 Canberra International Music Festival as its 2019 Young Artist.

Leanne’s performances in Canberra:

Thursday May 2, a solo recital at the National Gallery of Australia

Monday May 6, afternoon public masterclass with Russian pianist Vyacheslav Gryaznov

For further information and bookings please go to Canberra International Music Festival


Leanne to play at 2019 Canberra International Music Festival2019-02-13T00:30:29+00:00

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

Postcard from Rachael Shipard – 2017 award recipient

I am very excited about the Canberra International Music Festival! Thanks to the Theme and Variations Foundation and the Festival Director Roland Peelman, I have been invited to participate as the one of the Festival’s Young Artists. I will be playing in a masterclass with Roger Woodward, give a lunchtime solo recital at the National Gallery of Australia, and play a chamber work as part of another concert.

Roger Woodward is an acclaimed Australian pianist and I am looking forward to working with him on some of my current repertoire. I am sure he will provide me with many original ideas that I will enjoy exploring and weaving into my own interpretations of my pieces. I also hope to gain some insight into his thought processes behind his personal musical choices and how he conveys this to his audiences.

My recital will be on the 3rd of May and I will be playing an all-Busoni program: his transcription of Bach’s Chaconne in D minor, followed by the 10 Variations and Fugue in free form on Chopin’s Prelude in C minor, Op 22. Both of these compositions are based on well-known pieces in their own right: the Chaconne being the final movement from Bach’s Violin Partita No 2 in D minor, and the C minor Prelude is No 20 in Chopin’s set of 24 Preludes, Op 28. I hope I will be able to make it an enjoyable afternoon for everyone present in such an interesting venue!

The chamber work that I will be performing in the ‘Ulysses Now’ Concert on May 2 is titled ‘Angelus’, written by Mary Finsterer for clarinet, cello and piano trio. This is a fairly new work, written and premiered in 2015 by the Melbourne based group, Ensemble Liaison. The Angelus is a traditional Catholic prayer said at 6am, 12noon and 6pm each day – and Finsterer’s composition is based on the famous Millet painting of the same name. The music is also inspired by Gregorian chant, one of the gems of the sacred music tradition. The other musicians for this trio will be (clarinet) and Stephanie Arnold (cello), both of whom I am excited to meet and work with. The composer Magdalenna Krstevska will also be present, which will make the experience even more worthwhile – it is a rare thing for me to be able to play the compositions directly to the composer and receive their invaluable input!

I have also been invited to stay for the rest of the Festival, until May 6, so I will be able to mingle with the other musicians, and soak in the Festival atmosphere! I am very keen to hear some of the spectacular concerts on offer, such as those from the Orava Quartet and Keiko Shichijo. I am very grateful to the Theme and Variations Foundation for this opportunity and I hope to make the most of it!

Postcard from Rachael Shipard – 2017 award recipient2019-02-07T02:37:12+00:00
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