Gerard Willems is Australia’s pre-eminent Beethoven interpreter and one of its finest concert pianists. His love affair with the piano began in the early fifties in Holland. There, at the age of eight, he was awarded a professorial scholarship in pianoforte shortly before migrating with his family to Australia, where he spent his early life in in a migrant camp south of Sydney.
After finishing high school, Gerard Willems studied piano at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music with the distinguished pedagogue, Gordon Watson. He won the Queen Victoria Piano Competition in 1965. Following his graduation, he was called up for National Service. He then pursued advanced keyboard studies in Germany. He returned home in 1981 to join the keyboard staff at the Sydney Conservatorium, eventually becoming a senior lecturer and Associate Professor. He has toured extensively and given masterclasses across the United Kingdom, Europe and Australasia. His repertoire ranges from the Classical through to 20th-century works of Bernstein and Gershwin. He is regarded as a specialist in the First Viennese School.
As well his ARIA-winning recordings of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas, the five piano concertos and the ‘Diabelli Variations’, Gerard Willems’ DVD performance of Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ concerto (with Sinfonia Australis) won the International DVD Association’s Award for Music Excellence in 2005. He has also recorded a wide variety of Mozart’s works including the complete Piano Trios and an ABC Classics CD, Reflections on Mozart, to mark the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth in 2006.
In 2000 he won the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Australian Musical Scholarship, and held the Hephzibah Menuhin Chair in Piano as Visiting Professor at the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem. The following year he researched Early Music training in Europe and the United States. In 2008 he was Guest Professor at the Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg, Germany. In 2012 he was Artist in Residence at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music in Singapore.
Gerard Willems has been awarded a Centenary Medal and was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for services to the arts as a concert pianist, educator and mentor to young musicians.