Helfgott Shines

Photos by Mete Ozeren

We have made an interview with David Helfgott, a great pianist and the inspiration for the feature movie, Shine, this winter (in January, I guess) at Mansfield Hotel, where they were staying when they (him and his wife, Gillian) came for a gig, in Midtown New York.

It was great to meet him in person and experience his infinite energy and unlimited digression. We have managed to make a great photo shoot where we took these pictures that were published in Arena Magazine’s Turkish edition. I have come across those photos in my laptop today. I wanted you to see them. Here they are.

Photographs by Mete Ozeren.

Here is the unedited interview that I have made with Gillian and David Helfgott:


What is a routine day schedule of you and David? How is it for you to be with David during a day?

David swims for two hours, helps around the house, visits friends, and practices for at least two hours daily. He also watches TV and read. I do my usual business and we basically have very happy days.

How was David’s life until the movie? What changed after the movie? How did it effect his life and music?

It made him world famous and expanded his horizons greatly. It also made him a very inspirational person to thousands of people and this touched him dee0ply. It also gave him financial security but most importantly it gave him a greater self esteem.

What do you think about the movie? How would you comment on Geoffrey Rush‘s performance and depiction of David Helfgott? [You made a marvelous comment indicating the thin line between caricaturization and reality] Do you still keep in touch with Rush?

We saw Geoffrey Rush a few months ago and we greatly admire him. He did an extraordinary job of portraying David in shine and we are deeply grateful that he captured the essence of David without it descending into caricature. The film is so inspirational and it continues to touch people greatly. Geoffrey certainly deserved the Academy Award of his portrayal of David.

How did the mental institutions effect David’s life? Did they get him any better? What would you comment about using means of “electroconvulsive therapy” that they used on him during that period?

We must remember it was in the 1970’s that David was in hospital and there was still a lot of experimentation and not all of it good. David actually felt he was not well when he went in the institution and was sick when he came out. David needed companionship and love, which institutions cannot provide, and when he received this he started healing.

What is David’s concert schedule like? I know that he is really busy traveling most of the time internationally. How is it to accompany him during those journeys? Doesn’t he get frustrated sitting down at the airplane for long hours?

David is fine in a plane, he watches movies and listen to music and seems to enjoy the long flights. His schedule is busy this year but still he only does around 40 recitals a year, so he has 325 days off. also he loves visiting Europe especially, and the great history it has of music.

I asked him this question that day as well, but then we were interrupted:

I would really would like to learn –if there is an answer– how he manages to keep concentrated on playing the tune during the concerts, doesn’t he ever get distracted? [I read at a New York Times review about him saying that “Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, taken from a live performance in late 1995, did not bode well for the tour; the playing was pallid, erratic and incoherent. If anything, the playing Tuesday night during his recital was more troubled.” in 1997.  Here is the full article.]

In Switzerland they had a radio programme with four famous recotrdings of Rachmaninoff 3rd but did not tell listeners who were the pianists. So without any press bias it was people listening with open minds and David and Horowitz were voted the equal best.

Audiences have inevitably given David huge receptions and loved his playing, so really the critics are irrelevant. You saw the response on Monday night, everyone was so happy.  How many people create that much joy?

How is the relationship in the family after a long term coldness among brothers and sisters regarding a different memorization of their father? Does Margaret and David or other siblings get along now?

Yes, we are all on very happy terms and the family more united than I can ever remember. All the family live in Perth WA and we see them all at least three times a year.

david helfgott

David hasn’t performed in Turkey yet? Would he consider having a concert in Turkey?

Most certainly. A concert was nearly organized about 7 years ago, so he would be delighted if he could come and share his music.

(lifeproof‘s note: Actually, he did perform in Turkey just a few weeks ago and people were astonished by him and his unbelievable energy.)

You told us that you wanted to come to South coast of Turkey for vacation. Can you tell us what would you like to do, where would you like to go over there?

I think a holiday on the south coast would be wonderful and also to do a short cruise in the area. The photos of the beaches look so beautiful and David loves to swim and loves warm weather. We do not know which are the best areas, all I have seen look lovely.

Do you know any Turkish pianists? Would David like to perform together with any of them one day?

We have recordings of Idil Biret who plays so beautifully. Time is always the problem about playing with other pianists to rehearse, but he loves playing with other musicians.

What projects does David have in mind for future?

To keep touring and do more recordings. He says he wants to play until he  drops.mini

I see things that are not there--yet.

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