Piano student already winning over the world’s stages

Tony Lee: "The competition aimed to give anybody who applied a chance to perform a full recital."

Tony Lee: “The competition aimed to give anybody who applied a chance to perform a full recital.”

Tony Lee, a student of piano at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, has taken out the first prize in the under 24 category of a major international piano competition in Paris.

The 13th Scriabin International Piano Competition was held earlier this month at the Paris-based Russian Conservatory of Scriabin.

The competition came after a week-long festival of master classes presented by world-renowned Russian pianist Mikhail Voskresensky, Lee explains.

“It is not your standard multi stage ‘knockout tournament’. The competition aimed to give anybody who applied a chance to perform a full recital – with every competitor required to present a virtuoso etude and a major work by the prodigious Russian composer Alexander Scriabin,” Lee said.

Lee began playing the piano at just five years old, encouraged by his flautist father and violinist mother. At the age of just 15 he successfully applied to the Central Music School of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, a high school that offers intensive music education. He lived and studied in the country without his family, learning Russian in daily hour long language classes.

He returned to Sydney to study at the Conservatorium of Music, where he is enrolled in a Bachelor of Music (Performance) and studies under Dr Paul Rickard-Ford, the chair of the piano unit.

Tony’s international experience, as well as his extensive experience in national competitions, has helped shape him “into the mature young musician he is,” says Dr Rickard-Ford. “He has distinguished himself in many ways since his return to his home town, Sydney. He has consistently topped his year since he began his studies and won a string of important local prizes and scholarships.”

In 2011 he won the Piano Unit’s Concerto Competition, which led to him performing Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the SCM Symphony Orchestra that year. Last year he was a national finalist in the ABC Young Performers’ Award, where he performed Tchaikovsky’s 1st Piano Concerto with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in Hobart. In 2012 he won third prize at the 8th Adilia Alieva International Piano Competition in France.

In the weeks leading up to competitions and performances, Lee says he can rehearse for up to “six to seven hours a day”. He hopes to continue building his career as a concert pianist, but the physical rigours of such a path and a life constantly on the move mean that he also hopes to one day pursue teaching: “Most musicians love teaching”, he says.

Perhaps then he will also have more time to pursue his other interests – going to the theatre, visiting galleries and museums, and reading. Meanwhile, demand for his talents from audiences around the world look like keeping him busy for some time.