Music Sheet on Black Piano

Maestro, by Peter Goldsworthy

Following a journey through adolescence with a budding pianist living in Darwin in the 1960s and 1970s.

Publisher:Harper Collins Publishers, 2004
Characteristics:149 pages, Paperback ; 20 cm.
Source:Chris T.
Donated to Savers

Maestro is the coming of age story of Paul Crabbe, a 15-year-old budding pianist who has just moved with his parents from South Australia to Darwin. In their new location, a teacher was sought to help Paul continue his piano journey. The teacher is the temperamental and mysterious Herr Eduard Keller. The novel is written as a memoir and almost comes across as being a true story. Just to confirm, I did a quick Google Search for Keller, and it showed no-one like the man in the book, who played at many high-end concerts in Europe and performed for the Nazis.

Maestro, front cover.

The novel follows the relationship between Paul, his parents and the slowly defrosting Keller. More is revealed about his troubled past and how it has shaped his character. Keller plays the piano brilliantly even though he is missing a little finger, the finger which he considers to be the least important. All fingers of the hand have their own personality according to Keller. The forefinger is “selfish” and the middle finger is “Mr. Goodie Goodie”. An intriguing way to view hand anatomy.

For the first few weeks of Paul’s tuition, Keller does not let him play; he must listen to the master first. As time progresses, Paul develops into an accomplished pianist. The story and characters seem so real that the book must have been based on real people and events. But according to study guides, it’s all fiction.

Critics and many others have raved about this book, but it didn’t grab me that much. It was on the high school curriculum at one time and there are many study resources available, making me rather envious of not having anything like the internet when I was doing year 12.

Anyway, it’s a good Australian novel that’s worth a read.

Featured image: Steve Johnson.

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