It has been a very big year for many organisations, and Theme & Variations is no exception. With various projects, festivals, competitions and concerts, 2016 certainly has been a busy year! Here are a few highlight ‘snapshots’ from this year…
Pianists in Recital
This year Theme & Variations was again proud to partner with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in presenting another stellar Pianists in Recital Series! In 2016 the City Recital Hall stage was graced by Garrick Ohlsson’s gracious Granados, Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s meditative Messiaen, Nelson Freire’s dazzling Debussy and Jayson Gilham’s blissful Beethoven. Next year see another fine selection of the world’s leading pianists, including Daniil Trifonov, Orli Shaham, Imogen Cooper and Alexander Gavrylyuk!
In August this year Theme & Variations opened their Melbourne Servicing Branch. Operations Manager Julian Morgan-Smith is currently overseeing all domestic and institutional tuning and servicing enquiries. After establishing our highly regarded services in NSW and QLD, we have now added VIC to the list!
Ara Vartoukian OAM
This year Ara was formally recognised for his ‘service to music as a piano technician, and support of the arts‘. Being one of the leading piano technicians in the country, Ara has represented Australia on several occasions in China, Germany, New Zealand and Russia. His skill and expertise in piano technology has made him an international authority on the piano.
When Artists Drop In…
Due to our longstanding relationship with Musica Viva and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, we were delighted to host two very special pianists in our showroom this year! The British-Australian Stephen Hough, and the Soviet-Austrian Elizabeth Leonskaja both graced the Willoughby showroom with their presence. Dropping past to catch up with their favourite piano technicians, we were extremely excited to host them for a coffee and a biscuit!
The Sydney International Piano Competition
Theme & Variations was again proud to have their technical and emotional support on stand-by (whenever and wherever needed) at the Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia. With our Australian friends Quang Hong Luu, Daniel Le, Tony Lee and Ayesha Gough all making it into the competition – we watched each round with baited breath to see what would happen and who would make it through! The 2013 Theme & Variations Foundation Award winner, Tony Lee, was the only Australian pianist to make it through to the second round. With our dear friend Piers Lane AO at the helm, the competition had a few exciting new twists that made for an even more interesting competition.
The Theme & Variations Foundation Award
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 7 and our auditions took place on November 13. We had four finalists each to play a thirty minute program for an independent artistic assessment panel of Professor Michael Brimer and Professor John Luxton. Two prizes were awarded for 2016. Alexander Yau is twenty-one, currently studying with Daniel Herscovitch at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He is planning a career as a concert pianist and chamber musician. He plans on applying the award to further his studies in Australia and Europe, and to assist in covering costs for Australian and international competition entry fees. Ayesha Gough is twenty-one, and has been studying with Oleg Stepanov at the Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University. She is planning a career as a concert pianist, with a strong focus on Australian music. She plans to apply her award to tuition fees and living costs in Europe, initially in Italy, and to assist with fees to enter international competitions.
Emerging Artists 2016
This year we were delighted to welcome so many talented young artists to our Emerging Artists Concert Series. Held on a Sunday afternoon at our Willoughby Showroom, these young piano superstars shared their talents with captive audiences. Performers included: Tony Lu, Charis Chiu, Olivia Urbaniak, Annie Ma, Celine Kang, Alexander Yau, Adrian Yidayat, Anna Gulikov, Nicolas Kennedy, Lin Xu-Zhang, Kimble Zhang and Calista Yeoh. Thank you to all who made this such a successful series and valuable part of our musical community!
Australian Festival of Chamber Music
Each year we are blessed to support many music festivals around Australia. The Australian Festival of Chamber Music is one of the most sought after events in the music calendar. Held each year in tropical Townsville, it truly is a tropical paradise for classical music connoisseurs. Each year we send a collection of pianos to Townsville for the musicians, which is a long journey for the pianos and the drivers! Congratulations to Piers Lane AO on another amazing festival for 2016!
Huntington Music Festival
2016 marked the 27th Huntington Music Festival, hosted by Huntington Estate Winery and Musica Viva. We were again proud to have our Steinway Concert Grand (also used in the 2015 Lev Vlassenko Piano Competition) pride of place, outlined by thousands of gallons of delicious wine! Food, wine and classical music seems like the perfect combination!
International Travel Diaries
As one of Australia’s most respected piano technicians, Ara was asked by Steinway to head the new piano tuning course at the Beijing Central Conservatory in China. China is home to 30 million pianists along with a significant shortage of competent piano technicians, so Ara has been making regular trips to Beijing to administer course material and exams to students. After his last China expedition in September, Ara also went on to Germany to give masterclasses on advanced regulation and voicing of Steinway Concert Grand Pianos.