A rare look inside the romantic life of David Helfgott

David Helfgott.
David Helfgott.

DAVID and Gillian Helfgott live a remarkable life among the wild ducks and water lilies on their estate at the foot of the Great Dividing Range.

They have an ‘unusual’ relationship – as Gillian puts it – full of love, laughter, music, adventure and romance.

“Can I share with you what David did for Valentine’s Day this year?” Gillian asked.

“I woke up and there he was standing by the bed and he read me Elizabeth Browning’s glorious poem: How Do I Love Thee? and then he gave me a beautiful lapis ring.

“Now, how many husbands do that? He opens the bed and puts my night gown out for me every night – he just thinks about being kind to people.

“I know I am very lucky – and then of course I have the joy of listening to all the beautiful music that he plays, sometimes until half past two in the morning: that’s when I’m not at my best.”

When David (71) isn’t tinkering on the keys at his ‘Promise Land’ estate, he’s swimming in his lap pool, wandering around the garden or chatting to the neighbour’s cattle.

Gillian (86) said that life on the property (for the past 28 years) was a wonderful contrast to the months they spent touring the world each year for David’s concerts. This year, David will spend three months on tour, visiting cities such as Istanbul, Paris, Budapest and Vienna.

David – born in Melbourne and raised in Perth – became a household name after the release of 1996 film, Shine.

The Academy Award-winning movie starring Geoffrey Rush depicted his mental illness ordeal (his condition remains undetermined by doctors) and extraordinary talent for the piano.

It also followed his quest to conquer the ‘Rach 3’ which David performs in Perth next week with acclaimed pianist Rhodri Clarke (version for two pianos).

“Music is David’s passion, it just fills him with joy and this is what appeals to audiences so much,” Gillian said.

“He runs out on stage and smiles at people and says: ‘Oh, good, I’m going to be able to play to you tonight’ and then off he goes into his own wonderful musical world.

“He often says to me: ‘Darling, aren’t I lucky that I earn my living by my passion?’”

THE ESSENTIALS

What: David Helfgott performs Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor (version for two pianos) with Rhodri Clarke

When: Friday 20 July

Where: Perth Concert Hall

Tickets: ticketmaster.com.au