An Unforgettable Music Experience. A standing ovation brought a night of unrivalled musical expression to a close with one of the most acclaimed and well-known pianists in the world gracing Charlton's Rex Theatre stage last Saturday night. Jenny Pollard

David Helfgott's brilliant and effortlessly executed playing infused the auditorium with an electric atmosphere which had built even before the almost capacity audience entered the venue. "Spellbinding", "stupendous", "breathtaking" were just some of the adjectives used to describe a performance which mesmerized the audience to silence as the maestro unveiled his mastery. In a program showcasing his bravura talent, pieces demanding a virtuoso technique such as Beethoven's Opus 53 (Waldstein) and the Chopin Ballades No.1 and No.4, captivated and amazed, with their spine-tingling speed and driving tempos. Brilliant encores of the fiery and intense "Sabre Dance" (Khachaturian), and Rimsky-Korsakov's dazzling "Flight of the Bumble Bee" left the audience on a "high" as MC Wayne Phillips (radio FlowFM) likened the experience to having attended a recital in one of the world's preeminent opera houses. "What a privilege to have the opportunity to hear an artist of David's international standing play in a country town" said Wayne during his opening welcome. Attracting visitors from around the state, (one couple even made the trip from Melbourne when they were unable to attend David's only other Australian concert at the Melbourne Recital Hall), the audience also included Member for Ripon, Louise Staley, immediate past Mayor of Ballarat City Council, Samantha McIntosh, along with Buloke, Charlton and Donald Citizens of the Year : John McConville, John Harley and Enid Brasier. Other attendees had travelled from Wodonga, Gippsland, neighbouring Buloke communities and regional centres. Fickle weather almost deprived the Rex of this once-ina-life-time event, with the floods impacting the region around the Helfgott's home in Bellingen, NSW. Amid concerns about being prevented from upholding their performance commitment, the situation fortunately didn't impact, and the Rex visit proceeded as planned. Enhancing the quality of the evening the majestic Steinway D Concert Grand was carefully prepared by tuner Greg Machnacki, who worked on the instrument both before and at the interval during the performance. Based in Melbourne, Greg has travelled the world tuning many brands of pianos and was excited about being involved with an artist of David's standing. And it was thanks to now local Charlton resident and music teacher, Dana Czarski, that the availability of the Steinway D : ("the overwhelming choice of the world's greatest pianists" as quoted on the Steinway website) was on hand for use at the Rex. Even Gillian Helfgott said she was amazed when they saw they would have access to the concert industry standard in the small town. "I couldn't believe it!" she said. Affable and gregarious by nature, the meet-and-greets with David both before and after the performance were spontaneous and effusive affairs. Cheerful introductions, accompanied by a hug or a hand-shake, and maybe a kiss, were also reflected in his relaxed response to the audience's appreciation following each piece of music giving a double thumbs-up sign and bows. Supported by his wife Gillian, the pair gave generously of their time following the event, talking with audience members, re-acquainting with past friends and signing programs. At the conclusion of the performance, the couple were presented with a hamper containing a broad range of local products from across the Buloke Shire. The Rex acknowledges with gratitude the support f

COASTBEAT - David still shining | May 2019

Here is the link to the above article - and her perception of David is very insightful.


I have questioned myself for months as to whether I should write to you. Today I realised I should.

On the 21st of July this year I was sitting in the Perth Qantas Lounge. I was feeling a little anxious as I was leaving Perth to begin a new adventure. I was off to live in Uruguay and had a new job to get to. I was leaving my family behind for 2 months whilst I get everything set up and then return to get them to begin living in South America. It was a big deal and the stresses involved with organising such a move were close to overwhelming. Gillian and David walked in the lounge and sat next to me. David and I began talking immediately. He then asked if there were any newspapers and I said I would take him over to them so he could chose one. As soon as I stood up he put his arm in my arm and we walked around the lounge chatting away. We talked about all sorts of things - even Russian rivers! I talked with Gillian also and it was a great experience. The most memorable part for me, at this time of my life setting up a new life in a new country, was that he told me repeatedly "Be Bold, Be Brave Peter." These words were just what I needed to hear.

I helped carry his bags onto the plane, all the while with our arms locked together. When he went to his seat he kissed me (half on the lips!) and told me I was beautiful and "Be Bold, Be Brave Peter."

Over 3 months later and I am now living in Uruguay with my wife and 2 young girls. It is wonderful and my new work is better than I could have imagined. I think about those words every day and it strengthens me when I think things are getting tough.

If there is any way that I could get a photo of David with those words on it to have in my office here in Montevideo I would cherish it as it was a case of perfect timing and inspiration for a guy who explores for oil and gas and has never played a note.



I was at a brilliant performance by Australian pianist David Helfgott at the Cadogan Hall, London, last night. Wearing his sky blue satin tunic, he trotted on to the stage and performed piano transcriptions of Moussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. His playing was phenomenal. Bobbing and bowing and doing a thumbs up to us all with a broad smile on his face, he had such a strong emotional rapport with the audience. So moving and inspirational. He took 4 separate standing ovations.


By Louise Keller

He bounds on stage like an excited child: chatting incessantly to himself. Or could it be to the higher beings above? He wears a turquoise satin shirt a Cossack dancer might wear. Its sheen reflects his enthusiasm. He cups his hands on his forehead to see his audience beyond the glare of the spotlight. Thumbs up. More thumbs up. He grins, exuding sheer joy. Then he sits at the Steinway and begins to play.

Chopin, Liszt, Mussorgsky. The magic begins as his lithe fingers traverse and caress the keyboard. We are instantly transported. But watching David Helfgott and listening to him are two different things.

Eyes open, we see a man who embraces not only the music, but the audience. He chatters nonstop, incorporates his version of singing along with the music. He is clearly having the time of his life. He sits upright. Then his back is hunched as he leans over, his face almost touching the keys. His exuberant face turns to the audience, the crinkles around his expressive eyes exaggerated as he somehow interacts with them intimately. An invisible lasso shepherds the audience into his world. His unique world. Visually, the scene is extraordinary. It almost overshadows the music. Almost.

Eyes closed, the impact of the light and shade of the music is a powerful force as, impossible cadences and finger gymnastics, a dazzling feat.

At the end of each musical piece, he jumps to his feet, grins broadly and bows hyperactively as he effusively thanks his audience. Thumbs up again. He does not speak between pieces. Not in the normal accepted sense. But there is no shortage of communication, albeit the language is somewhat different.

There is such generosity of spirit and emotion on display. Everyone in the audience senses it. You can hear a pin drop. Men wearing suits, jeans and tattoos; ladies in stilettos, boots and sneakers; wide-eyed youngsters. We are hypnotized by the Helfgott spell. It is an indescribably powerful thing. Time stops. No wonder he is beloved around the world with a sold out concert schedule throughout Europe and beyond.

Two hours later, after a standing ovation, streamers, flowers and encores, wife Gillian comes on stage. They hug unselfconsciously. She says how happy David is playing his music and thanks the audience for making him so happy on this special night: his 71st birthday. The simplicity and genuine nature of the sentiment is overtly moving. I feel the prickle of tears welling in my eyes; the natural release of emotion. I have witnessed a miracle.

To say that David Helfgott is unique is stating the obvious. Is this what a genius looks like? An extraordinarily, talented human being who makes everyone around him look and feel ordinary.

Backstage? His warmth and love fill the room. He takes my hands, holds them, admires my nails, hugs me, nuzzles my face, bestows kisses with great generosity. Yes, he is going back to Budapest for a concert. He mutters greetings in Hungarian. Vienna? He switches to German. Then the banter is English and Helfgott speaks without taking a breath. All at a million miles an hour.

And then he is gone. The room suddenly becomes dull. As though a light has been switched off. Like the night sky when the brightest star has been extinguished.

David Helfgott's recital was held on Saturday May 19, 2018 at Sydney's City Recital Hall in Angel Place.


Hi David, my name is Jade and I am a 14 year old pianist. I have been playing piano for about 7 years (this being my eighth) and I went to your show last night (on the 28th of April). You have truly inspired me. I watched the movie Shine before I went to the concert and your story is so amazing. To see how you got to where you are now and all the trouble that you went through... I was honestly crying through half of it. After that, I was even more excited to watch you play live. This was my first piano recital that I have ever been too and it was an experience I will never forget. Usually, I am used to playing in small school concerts so it was incredibly refreshing to watch someone else play. Like really play. Especially someone of your calibre. Your recital was astonishing. It blew me away and I don't t think I have any words to describe how magical it was. To be perfectly honest, I don't typically listen to a lot of classical music, though I know I should, but after watching you perform, I am determined to listen to more. Your performance transported me to another world. I was sitting on the front row in the high stands right in the centre and i got the best view in my opinion. I was bewildered by how relaxed you looked on stage and I felt the joy and happiness you gave off to the audience every time you bowed. I found it relaxing how you mumbled to yourself during the performance and how you talked about the song and the dynamics. How you sang along with the melody and counted out loud for some parts. I have always been determined to learn flight of the bumblebee at some stage in my life and when you came out for the encore and played it flawlessly? I was lost for words. It was pure and utter magic. I thought it was sweet how you shook the front rows hands and though I knew we had great seats, at that moment I was in envy of that row. I couldn't stop smiling the entire night as I relived the memories and I can't wait to tell all my friends about how I saw one of the best pianists in the world play live. You have inspired me to become a better pianist, to appreciate everything I am given and how lucky I am.
I wish you and your wife the very best in your lives and hope you have wonderful years to come!