David Helfgott, Pianist Extraordinaire

By Alan Landauu on September 4, 2013


I was driving to work the other day and tuned the car radio into the end of an interview with a lady talking about a man called David Helfgott (I think it was his wife).  I had never heard the name Helfgott before. Then the radio show host played a piece of Helfgott's music and I was totally enthralled.  I have to admit, I am not a lover of classical music, but I was enthralled all the same.


It turned out that Helfgott would be performing at our local cultural centre that very evening and bookings could be made on-line.  Since I was driving at the time and couldn't use the internet I phoned my partner on the “spur of the moment” and asked her to book two tickets for the performance that evening.


What an amazing evening it turned out to be!


Helfgott turned out to be a slight man who seemed, even at first appearance, to be rather eccentric.  He appeared on stage in a bright red Oriental style jacket and after numerous short and quick bows and "thumbs up" to the audience, sat down at the piano and began to play the most amazing music I had heard.  I found it fascinating that he did not use any sheet music and he played entirely from memory; and it was just him on stage with his piano.


It was obvious to me that Helfgott has a very special relationship with the piano.  Not only did he play without sheet music but his fingers sped over the keyboard with incredible speed and precision.  He would often lean close to the keyboard, his nose barely an inch from his fingers as he played one masterpiece after another.  Every now and then he would randomly sing along with his music, although “singing” is probably not the right word - it was more like groaning; nevertheless, any distraction this may have caused was totally overwhelmed by the quality of music that poured off the stage and into my ears.


I was so enthralled that I later did a bit of research on the Internet and found out that David Helfgott had a very tumultuous life.  He had been an exceptionally gifted piano student and performed extremely well until his tutor suddenly passed away.  The death of his tutor was too much for him to bear and Helfgott had a nervous breakdown, being institutionalised for many years.  During this time his music career was in tatters and he all but gave up playing the piano entirely.


Then one day “the fog lifted” and he began to play the piano again.  With the help of his wife and a friend he slowly got his concert days back on track and became a respected performer once more.


Helfgott went on to perform to sold-out shows around the world and continues to do so today.  He produced a series of CDs, which at one stage were the number one best seller in Australia, America and the United Kingdom.  He also composed the soundtrack for the Oscar award winning film “Shine,” which commemorated and celebrated Helfgott's life and in which Geoffrey Rush played Helgott (http://geoffrey-rush.livejournal.com/).


If you are into classical piano music, or even if you are not but are looking to watch and listen to someone with a most extraordinary talent, I would highly recommend that you go and listen to David Helfgott if he performs anywhere near your town or city.  You can find out more about Helgott and his world tours a thttp://www.davidhelfgott.com.


Now I just absolutely have to see the film, “Shine”! https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/shine/id310987803.