Music – Finsterwald – “Embracing the People”: An Evening with David Helfgot – Culture

Potsdam (dpa/bb) – At first he went on stage a bit awkwardly. Then he looks at the audience, throws waves and winks mischievously – before suddenly his hands fly over the piano keys. Anyone who has experienced Australian pianist David Helfgott knows how great his concerts are. The musician speaks while playing, mumbling something incomprehensible to him – and completely immersed in the world of sounds. About 500 spectators were able to experience it on Friday evening at the all-sold-out Cottbus Film Theater “Weltspiegel” – the penultimate stop for Helfgott on a small farewell tour before the extraordinary 75-year-old pianist made his final appearance on June 17 at the world-famous Carnegie Hall. in New York. The concert was held in the oldest cinema in Brandenburg as part of the Brandenburg Festival.

God help in Lusatia? Not many believed that the world-famous musician had chosen Cottbus of all places and not a city like Berlin as the venue. According to the organizers, the pianist, whose life story was depicted in the Oscar-winning work “Shine – Der Weg in Licht” (1996), decided to choose Cottbus when, among other things, the concert bureau presented him with photos of the old movie theater. Things.

The cinema is dimly lit on a Friday evening. Helfgott received thunderous applause for his interpretations of Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin, among others. He seems to get a little beaten up in his shiny blue silk shirt, and has to battle the cold, but he keeps getting lost in his game on Beckstein’s grand piano. Then he raises his thumb in the direction of the audience and smiles and bows over and over.

It is known that the concert pianist sometimes hugs the guests from the front row with childlike joy. Also in Cottbus, he goes to the crowd and shakes several hands. Seated in the front row, Mayor Holger Kelch (CDU) was clearly influenced by the musician’s great love.

“He is indescribable, he casts a spell (…). He embraces people,” says Walter Chernik, describing the great friendliness of the artist. The president of the Brandenburg Festival works, among other things, as a composer, conductor and pianist. As artistic director of the Stuttgart Symphony Orchestra, he organized a European tour for Helfgott. “His piano playing amazed me from the first second,” Chernik enthuses. Helfgott’s music is communication.

The 49-year-old tells how he saw the award-winning film about Helfgott’s life before getting to know him personally. However, he said he already knew “the guy David”.

It is known that the childhood of the Australian was shaped by an ambitious father who recognized his son’s talent early on and then tyrannically encouraged it. He took the teenage Helfgott to England on a scholarship, where he achieved early fame by playing the piano. But the mental injuries he suffered from his strict father and extreme stress in his early childhood and adolescence led to a mental breakdown. As a result, Helfgott had to go through years of clinical treatment. Today’s pianist suffers from a special autism.

Chernik says Helfgott’s wife Gillian, who brought him back to the stage, was significant. I realized that he had to connect with people through his game. For Chernik, “it is this love that radiates towards music and people.” It is not about the technical perfection of the game. It’s been a standard for a long time now. Helfgott revolves around this strength, basic elements, and his expertise in music.

Director Cosima Lange is also among the guests this evening in Cottbus. She portrayed Helfgott in her documentary “Hello I am David! – Eine Reise mit David Helfgott” (2015). In one scene of the movie, Helfgott dances with the director who asks him if he wants to dance alone. Helfgott asks again, “Can you dance alone? Don’t you need other people? Don’t you need each other?”

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 220604-99-545167 / 4

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