The world has changed beyond recognition since Sydney pianist Leanne Jin won the last Lev Vlassenko Piano Competition in 2019. And not only have co-Artistic Directors Natasha Vlassenko and her husband Oleg Stepanov had to adapt to lockdowns, travel restrictions and live music bans, they have expanded the contest’s vision by adding a ‘Young Lev’ for pianists 16 and under, competing for $3,000 in prize money.

After a seven-month delay brought on by the pandemic, the finals – featuring three musicians from both competitions – were held before a live audience in Brisbane’s Queensland Conservatorium Theatre, livestreamed free worldwide.

The three Young Lev finalists – Michelle Zhou, Sheng-Yuan Lynch and Tina Algeri – had to perform a single movement from a concerto with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Johannes Fritzsch, while the seniors – Hannah Shin, Tian Tian Lan and Ching Pong Ng – had an entire concerto at their disposal with which to impress the judges.

The inaugural Young Lev attracted a big field from across the country. Each youngster to had submit an audition video and perform a 25-minute recital, after which a field of 31 was whittled down to these final three. The senior competition, which normally...