11 February 2011

While most of his fellow students at Sydney's prestigious Conservatorium of Music have enjoyed a summer break, young pianist Tony Lee has been hard at work on campus preparing for his shot on the international stage.

19 year old Lee is practising up to five hours a day for the final stages of the inaugural Bang & Olufsen International Piano competition in Aarhus - Denmark's second largest city - next month.

Tony was selected by an international jury as one of 20 standout performances of 109 entries from around the world in the 16-21 age group.

While he is the only Australian entrant among 15 nations to be represented in Denmark, he is already familiar with the work of some of his fellow finalists.

"I spent a couple of years studying at the Moscow Conservatory in Russia from 2006," Tony said.

"There are some well known and well established names that have qualified, so I know what standard of competition to expect."

Tony's path to Denmark started with the submission of an audio recording of his work that included compositions by Chopin and Mozart.

His teacher, Chair of Piano at the Conservatorium, Dr Paul Rickard-Ford, explained the unique blind judging format the competition used to de-identify all entries and ensure fairness.

"The jury listened to audio recordings of all applicants without knowing their name, sex, age or nationality," Dr Rickard-Ford said.

"To make it into the top 20 is already clear recognition that Tony's playing is of an international standard."

In Denmark, competitors are required to play two recitals of 25 minutes, then the first movement of a piano concerto backed by the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra. All must be performed from memory.

That shouldn't be a problem for Tony who was literally born into a musical family. His mother, a violinist and his father, a flautist both studied at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing.

He recently left the family home at Campsie to take up residence on the northern beaches.

Professor Kim Walker, Dean and Principal of the Conservatorium, praised both student and teacher.

"Simply being selected from such a huge field of international competitors is an exceptional achievement for Tony" Professor Walker said.

"It is wonderful to watch these young professionals at the start of their careers embracing the hard work and then experiencing the joy that comes with attaining excellence.

"We are very proud of Tony and his teacher Paul, who has launched so many young pianists into major competitions and career opportunities."

If he goes all the way and wins the competition Tony would not only gain international recognition and a European concert date, he would pocket the 10,000 Euros first prize. But he is not getting ahead of himself.

"It would be nice, but I haven't thought about the prizemoney," he said.

The Bang & Olufsen PianoRAMA finals will take place from March 20-26.

*** A special performance by Tony Lee and the Sydney Conservatorium Piano Unit will take place at 6.30pm on Thursday 3 March in Recital Hall West. ***

It will feature works that Tony is preparing for the competition, including pieces byMozart, Chopin, Schumann, Grieg, Saint Saens, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin and Neilsen.

Contact: Mick Le Moignan

Phone: 02 9351 1385

Email: 1e5d08205a250a08031d55161623243c1d571e342b1d281c16740443