Australian concert pianist
David Helfgott was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1947. He showed extraordinary pianistic ability from an early age, winning the state finals of the ABC's Instrumental & Vocal Competition six times.
At age 17, David began studying with Alice Carrard, a former student of Bartok and Istvan Thoman, himself a pupil of Liszt. Two years later, David went to London to study at the Royal College of Music with Cyril Smith, who described him as his most brilliant student in 25 years of teaching and likened him to Horowitz, both technically and temperamentally.
David won a number of awards at the College, including the Dannreuther Prize for Best Concerto Performance for his triumphant performance of Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto. However, towards the end of his time in London, David faced increased emotional instability and mental excitability, compounded by the death in Perth of his mentor, writer Katherine Susannah Pritchard.
A period of frequent hospitalization followed during the 1970s, but by 1976 David had moved to a halfway house where he stayed for six years. The greatest crisis for David had been the loss of his inner music, but he remembers the day the music came back: "The fog lifted, I could hear again ... I survived."
Dr Chris Reynolds, who owned Riccardo's wine bar in Perth, where David performed on Saturday nights, brought David back to the public's attention. It was there he meet his future wife, Gillian, who, with the support of promoter Mike Parry, helped David gradually resume his concert career with concert performances in Perth and a sell-out tour of Australia's eastern states in 1986. This was followed by a trip to Europe, with recitals in Germany and Denmark.
David triumphantly returned to an active life of concert giving and performance, and made a series of CDs, including the soundtrack of the Oscar-winning film Shine, which celebrates his remarkable and inspiring life. David's recording of the Rachmaninov Third was the number one selling CD in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom for many months. Both attained gold status.
The truly extraordinary artist that is David Helfgott is continuing to receive the worldwide recognition that his remarkable technical and interpretative genius deserves. His continuing and unparalleled success comes as no surprise to David's legion of devoted admirers everywhere. They have long regarded his recitals as transcending mere music making, and an affirmation of the tenacity of the human spirit and imagination.