Essays & Reviews
Julia Gillard and the women in Cabinet
It is the first sitting week in parliament. Somewhere up north, a man draws lewd cartoons of the prime minister. It is compulsive, self-pleasuring behaviour. He simply cannot stop himself. Closer to home, a deposed leader accepts a role on breakfast television. No, he says with a tight smile, he is...
Sleepwalking with Schubert
What is it about Schubert? There are so many composers to love. And so many ways to love them. Mozart: in your blood, that narcotic joy. Bach: the brainwaves flowing to theta. Beethoven: an enlargement of the musculature, and the mind. And then there’s Schubert: straight to the tear ducts. It’s a...
There comes a time when a television series is no longer a simple pleasure but a type of illness: when you cast a sheepish glance at your partner at midnight and he responds with a brusque, shamefaced nod before pressing play for the fifth time; when the theme music continues to echo in your ear...
The ANAM Piano Festival
Last year, when Peter Garrett announced the withdrawal of funding from the Australian National Academy of Music, he must have been startled by the response. He received an open letter signed by Sir Simon Rattle and JM Coetzee, among others; convoys of musicians descended upon Canberra; bene...
Oliver Sack's 'Musicophilia'
Some years ago, on a break from an extended piano tour, I spent a weekend on the Aran Islands, off the coast of Ireland. After weeks of practice and performance I found the silence overwhelming, and my ear created sounds of its own to fill it: whistles, percussion, the occasional trombone...
Do Androids Dream of Electric Pianos?
Evgeny Kissin's 'Fantasy'
The first time I heard the pianist Evgeny Kissin was in Carnegie Hall, in 1998, with the Met Orchestra and James Levine. Kissin is pale and grave and a little like Mr Bean, with a high, fraught forehead and a frizz of brown hair. He lept his arms stiff at his sides as he walked on stage, gave...
Martin Amis' 'Lionel Asbo: State of England'
At the end of his recent biography of Martin Amis, Richard Bradford poses a question, as if to justify the toil of the previous 382 pages: “Significance: Is He a Great Writer?” “The short answer to this question is yes,” he continues – too swiftly? – “he is the most important British novelist of...
The Sydney Symphony's Mahler Cycle
In the summer of 1910, Gustav Mahler consulted Sigmund Freud, seeking advice on his troubled marriage. “Mahler gave me the impression of being a genius,” Freud recalled, “yet at the same time somehow curiously apelike.” Over the course of their four-hour conversation, Freud diagnosed a Holy Mary...
Tanja Liedtke’s name was suddenly everywhere in May 2007, when she was appointed artistic director of Sydney Dance Company. The 29-year-old dancer and choreographer claimed to be “absolutely ecstatic” about her new role, and there was a great deal of ecstasy in the arts industry too: a notable lack...
'Mrs Carey’s Concert' by Bob Connolly and Sophie Raymond
Mrs Carey’s Concert, a new documentary by Bob Connolly (of Rats in the Ranks and Facing the Music) and Sophie Raymond, offers a familiar narrative archetype: it’ll be all right on the night. It is a type of triumph over adversity set on the concert stage, which informs...
Like Love in a Marriage
Melbourne's International Chamber Music Competition
"Competitions are terrible," says Stefan Heinemeyer, the diminutive, twinkling cellist of the Atos Trio, from Germany. "You go in with certain expectations. It's a lottery. That's why you have to go in a lot.""Competitions are a necessary evil," adds the group's pianist Thomas Hoppe. Formed in 2003...
The first person we met in Townsville was Kirtley Leigh Payne, the Barrier Reef Orchestra's glamorous guest concertmaster. She had been chauffeured from her home in Cairns by Bobby, a large, affable Englishman of pastel colours: white hair, pink skin, watery blue eyes. He handed me his business...
A Heavy F*cking Situation
The second episode of HBO’s new comedy series Girls begins with a sex scene. “I knew when I found you, you wanted it this way,” pants a pale young man in a half-lit room. “Found me where?” asks the young woman beneath him. There is an amateurism to proceedings, a gonzo-porn awkwardness. "In the...
Meeting Composer Carl Vine
Many years ago in Sydney, moments before I was due on stage, the stage manager breezily mentioned that the composer might be in the audience. I fled to the bathroom and locked the door, scanning the walls for a window through which I might escape. The composer was Carl Vine; the piece was his Piano...
“Are you OK, dear?” the nurse asks. Whether I am OK is hardly the issue, when we are surrounded by people screaming. They are trapped in cages behind closed doors; the sounds they make are those of terror or mortal fear. And although they are very small people, perhaps a tenth the normal size...
Jazz Pianist Andrea Keller
To get to Melbourne's Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, you have to drive down Little Lonsdale Street and park by the church. It is dark down there, and the laneway across the road is even darker - surely that can't be the one? But the map says it is, so you...
Norman Lebrecht's 'Maestros, Masterpieces, and Madness'
Classical music is dying again. It's a morbid habit that it just can't shake, at least according to Norman Lebrecht, who has built a career as classical music's Jeremiah, or perhaps its Chicken Little. A cursory glimpse at his backlist gives some idea: The Maestro Myth, about....
A Change is Gonna Come
Series Six of 'The West Wing'
Many West Wing fans tuned out permanently from the show at the end of series four, after writer-creator Aaron Sorkin's spectacular exit. In retrospect, Sorkin's prolificness reeked of chemical enhancement, and his burnout should not have surprised anyone. But it still hurt. The thought of...
'Anna Goldsworthy's stage incarnation of her memoir, Piano Lessons, was a highlight.... traversing a vast emotional journey from a suburban piano teacher's studio to heaven itself.' The Australian, July 2013
a performance of pure enchantment. So begins a piece of music theatre that… seems to have been made in heaven.” The Courier-Mail
Commissioned by the Queensland Music Festival
Nominated for a Matilda Award 2012.
Concert pianist Anna Goldsworthy's deeply-felt memoir Piano Lessons comes to glorious musical life in this Queensland Music Festival world premiere.
Goldsworthy's award-winning book, which recounts her musical awakening as a young girl, struck a deep chord with critics, readers and music lovers on its 2009 release.
Goldsworthy herself stars in the stage adaptation, which, like the book, elegantly illustrates the intriguing relationship between the young pianist and her Russian teacher Mrs Sivan. This charismatic enigma inspires and challenges her young charge in equal measure as they work through a program of sublime piano pieces, including selections from Mozart, Liszt and Chopin.
Part theatrical production and part concert, Piano Lessons will provide insight into the lives and inspirations of the great masters and liberally break the fourth wall to expose the process of learning, interpreting and creating music. Piano Lessons will take the audience inside a musician's journey, through a unique real-life performance.
"[a] masterful play." Australian Stage
Commission by the State Theatre Company of South Australia
Adapted in collaboration with Peter Goldsworthy
A new South Australian play commissioned by State Theatre Company of South Australia. Maestro is based on the novel by Peter Goldsworthy, widely regarded as a modern Australian classic and recently voted one of the Top 40 Australian books of all time.
Against the backdrop of Darwin - that small tropical hothouse lying at the tip of Northern Australia - Paul Crabbe, the son of music-loving parents, is sent to receive piano lessons from the 'maestro' Eduard Keller, a Viennese refugee with a shadowed past. The relationship between teacher and student is not an easy one. The mysterious Keller reveals little about himself to his pupil, which only fuels Paul's curiosity...
A profound exploration of European exile and Australian adolescence, Maestro is also a wise and funny play about love and betrayal, about forgetting and remembering and about the seductions and mystifications of art.