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Backstage at the 2016 Sydney International Piano Competition

11/7/2016 [Musical Instruments]

Occurring in Australia once every four years, Sydney Conservatorium is currently hosting one the world’s most respected and gruelling competitions for concert pianists. Thirty-two virtuosi compete over three weeks and six rounds in the Sydney International Piano Competition. Ultimately six finalists will go through to the Sydney Opera House for the final concerto rounds with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra; the winner crowned with not only a $50 000 first prize but a number of extremely high profile concert engagements around the world.

Yamaha has been a key partner of the competition since its inception in 1977, providing technical and artist relations staff who work behind the scenes throughout the day and night. But perhaps most importantly, Yamaha is providing its acclaimed CFX concert grand piano as one of four competition pianos used through the competition. 

When placed under this much heavy playing and intense scrutiny, a concert grand piano requires extremely specialised technical skill to keep it in optimal condition. As well as regular tuning, there is other maintenance work that must be carried out. Whilst concert grand pianos like the 9ft Yamaha CFX are inherently beautiful and powerful instruments, they are designed in such a way that they will benefit from minor adjustments to suit either the acoustic of the performance space or the specific tastes of the pianist(s). This work is carried out throughout the night to prepare the piano for the following day’s performances, with time between 10pm and 6am divided between the four piano brands.

Along with the CFX, Yamaha provides quality pianos placed throughout the Conservatorium for the hours of practice that precede each recital, as well as the necessary personnel to keep everything running smoothly. With the focus of competitors squarely on their performance, sometimes support is as simple as buying a healthy meal, or giving local advice for the majority international pianists. 

Cameron Tait, Yamaha’s Marketing Manager - Traditional Instruments describes the atmosphere backstage: “Despite the fact they are in direct competition, the vibe between competitors is one of collegiality and friendliness. These are young people at the top of their game, and although the jury will ultimately rank them there is a strong sense of respect among them. They either know each other already or are likely to run into each other at other competitions overseas. It’s a very positive environment.”

Of the performances themselves, Eric Ong Piano Technical Manager for Yamaha says “it’s somewhere between science, artistry and sorcery”. As the end of Round II approaches and the announcements are made as to who will go on to the final rounds, the jury will have an increasingly hard task to distinguish between the competitors.

All sessions are streamed live online and broadcast on ABC Classic FM. Audience can cast their vote online in the Rex Hobcroft People’s Choice Award. The winner will receive a $10 000 prize sponsored by Yamaha Music Australia.


Vote online:



Live stream:



Banner photo credit: Daniel Boud.

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[Premium Pianos]

The CF Series pianos are characterised by a wide palette of tonal colors and the ability to create the most subtle expressive nuances. The CF Series pianos can "sing" phrases with a depth of expressiveness rarely heard. The nine foot CFX has a powerful bass and all registers can project over the sound of a symphony orchestra, even in very large halls.

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