- Title: USA: AUSTRALIAN PIANIST DAVID HELFGOTT PERFORMS IN NEW YORK
- Date: 18th March 1997
- Summary: BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS/NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (MARCH 5 AND 18, 1997) * FILM CLIPS AND CONCERT FOOTAGE MUST BE CLEARED BEFORE RE-USE * NEW YORK (MARCH 18) (RTV ) EXTERIOR OF LINCOLN CENTRE POSTER FOR CONCERT OF DAVID HELFGOTT AT AVERY FISHER HALL, LINCOLN CENTRE, WITH SOLD-OUT SIGN. PEOPLE OUTSIDE AVERY FISHER HALL, WALKING INTO CONCERT AUDIENCE MEMBER SAYING "I DECIDED TO COME HERE TONIGHT BECAUSE I THOUGHT THE MOVIE WAS EXTREMELY MOVING, AND SOMEBODY WITH THE AMOUNT OF HARDSHIP HE'S HAD, HAS BEEN ABLE TO COME THIS FAR. BUT ALSO OUT OF CURIOSITY, TO BE HONEST, TO REALLY SEE IF THIS GUY CAN REALLY PLAY."
- Embargoed: 2nd April 1997 13:00
- Location: NEW YORK CITY AND BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, USA
- Country: USA
- Reuters ID: LVABC8YP6WKQO7P45P0USOEY8C97
- Story Text: David Helfgott, the Australian pianist whose return to the stage after a mental breakdown is dramatised in the hit movie "Shine," made his New York debut this week. Helfgott has proved enormously popular, even though critics for leading American newspapers say he plays poorly.
The full house for Helfgott's concert at Lincoln Center, came to watch him perform despite the terrible reviews of his United States debut in Boston on March 5. The Washington Post called the Boston concert "a painful and disturbing experience. The New York Times's critic, Anthony Tommasini, wrote " If the pianist who inspired an inspiring film isn't very good, what then?" Critics questioned whether Helfgott was mentally fit for a world tour. They reported that he talked to himself continually on stage, saying things like "smile" and "must concentrate." They called his performances of masterpieces by Chopin and Rachmaninoff "garbled" and even "incoherent." But Helfgott's concert audiences have given him warm applause. Helfgott's recording of Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto is one of the hottest selling classical albums in the United States. The concerto is a dramatic high point in "Shine" --- the young Helfgott collapses while performing it in a student competition, and he enters a psychiatric hospital. Critics have panned Helfgott's currently popular Rachmaninoff recording as "erratic." Some of the concert-goers at Lincoln Centre admitted they had attended the concert out of "curiosity." One audience member said she found the movie extremely moving and now wanted to "see if he can play." Many of those who attended the concert were as vocal in their support as critics have been in their dismissal of David Helfgott.
Many praised the performance and Mr. Helfgott himself for his feat in recovering from mental illness and being able to perform.
Others commented on the similarities of Mr. Helfgott's demeanor to the actor Geoffrey Rush, who plays the adult Helfgott in the movie "Shine," but found Tuesday's performance less inspiring. "The movie should win an award," said one man, "I don't think he should win any awards." Terry Teachout, the Classical Music critic for one of New York's largest circulation dailies, the New York Daily News, told Reuters Television that the critics were unanimous in panning the night's performance. He likened Mr. Helfgott's playing to a "player piano that has not been properly regulated. He plays the notes but the dynamics are all wrong." A woman who identified herself as a classically-trained pianist interrupted the interview to say "that's not true," and to defend Mr. Helfgott's playing, and other audience members exiting the theatre were quick to agree with her, saying the performance was "wonderful." "The audience reaction was very enthusiastic," said Teachout, "People were applauding someone they've seen in a movie more than anything else. They're applauding an idea of a person able to overcome this great obstacle, they're certainly not applauding a musical performance in any meaningful sense." Mr. Helfgott received a standing ovation and he performed several encores.
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