David Helfgott (born 19 May 1947) is an Australian concert pianist. Helfgott's life inspired the Academy Award-winning film Shine, in which he was played by actors Geoffrey Rush and Noah Taylor.
Helfgott was born in Melbourne to Polish Jewish parents Rachel (née Granek) and Elias Peter Helfgott. He won the state final of the ABC Instrumental and Vocal Competition six times.
London studies and mental illness
The awards he won at the Royal College of Music included the Dannreuther Prize for Best Concerto Performance, for his performance of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3, and the Marmaduke Barton Prize.During his time in London, he began showing more definite manifestations of schizoaffective disorder. He returned to Perth in 1970. The following year he married Clare Papp, who had four children. He worked as a rehearsal pianist for the Western Australian Opera Company.In 1983, his brother Les Helfgott found him working at a Perth wine bar called Riccardo's.
Helfgott was the subject of the 1996 film Shine, which dealt with the pianist's formative years and struggle with mental illness. Helfgott was portrayed by actors Geoffrey Rush (adult), Noah Taylor (teenager) and Alex Rafalowicz (child). His brother Les has described the portrayal of their father in both Shine and in Gillian Helfgott's biography as "all outright lies". David Helfgott's first wife Clare Papp has also said that Peter Helfgott was "quite badly maligned" in the film.In a letter to the editor of Limelight magazine, published in the September 2013 edition, Margaret and Les Helfgott refer to certain claims made in an article in the August 2013 edition and state that "there was no estrangement from members of David's family following his return to Australia. On the contrary, he moved straight back into the family home, and was cared for by our family. Dad was not 'overbearing', and his main objection to David's going abroad was his concern for his son's welfare."
Current musical career
Helfgott generally prefers to perform Romantic music, mostly Mussorgsky, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Liszt, Schumann and Rimsky-Korsakov. However, his recordings and performances, especially that of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3, have been criticized as "pallid, erratic and incoherent." Of the two commercial recordings released by RCA, the American journal Fanfare Magazine was critical not only of Helfgott himself, but also of his producers, who were "marketing Helfgott's pain." The British magazine Gramophone was similarly scathing about the exploitative nature of their issue, which, the magazine said, falsely marketed Helfgott as an "unsung genius".On stage, Helfgott is known for his unusual platform manner. In 1997, critic Anthony Tommasini noted that Helfgott "stares into the hall and renders a nonstop commentary of grunts, groans and mutterings". Of a 1997 Helfgott recital in New Zealand, critic Denis Dutton wrote, "If, as Goethe claimed, architecture is frozen music, David Helfgott is the musician who finally proves the converse: that music can also be melted architecture — a structureless rubble of notes."Helfgott tours Australia annually and plays a small number of recitals in other countries.Helfgott's 2015 European tour was the subject of a documentary, Hello I Am David!
Helfgott and his second wife, Gillian, live in The Promised Land, a valley near Bellingen in New South Wales.
State Finalist ABC Instrumental and Vocal Competition (6 times)
Time for Peace
Honorary Doctorate of Music. Edith Cowan University (Perth, Western Australia) - Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)
On 26 November 2006, David Helfgott was formally inducted into the Australian Walk of Fame. At the ceremony, he performed several classical pieces including Rachmaninoff's piano arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee.
Dannreuther Prize for Best Concerto Performance for his performance of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3References
"Putting a spotlight of truth on 'Shine'" – Review of Margaret Helfgott's book Out of Tune, which exposes inaccuracies in the film Shine
Review of a New Zealand performance by Denis Dutton
David Helfgott Live in Singapore review from The Flying Inkpot
ECU Honorary Doctorate AwardsExternal links
David Helfgott's official homepage
David Helfgott on The Artist Gallery.com
Love you to Bits and Pieces at Google Books (Retrieved Wednesday, Jan 10, 2018)
David Helfgott on IMDb See also
Love You to Bits and Pieces, by Gillian Helfgott and Alissa Tanskaya. Authors' first edition: 1996. Penguin edition (337 pages): 1997