Paul Keating’s searing eulogy for Geoffrey Tozer, who the former Prime Minister described as “Australia’s greatest pianist”, comes to life onstage in Geelong on Saturday.
Conductor and pianist Richard Gill and Keating himself recreate the moment from 2009, exploring the tragic story of the remarkable but oft-overlooked virtuoso.
Born in India but raised in Victoria, Geoffrey Tozer was a child prodigy who played with the Victorian Symphony Orchestra at age 9.
At 13 he became the youngest-ever recipient of a Churchill Fellowship.
He was a virtuoso pianist and improviser with an unprecedented repertoire, whose career saw him lauded around the world.
But in Australia he struggled to achieve recognition, despite the well-documented patronage of then Treasurer Paul Keating.
Tozer died in poverty aged 54, of liver disease, in 2009 and at his memorial service Keating delivered a characteristically unforgettable 45-minute address.
“He deserved to be remembered alongside the Australian triumvirate of Nellie Melba, Percy Grainger and Joan Sutherland,” Keating said.
“He was treated with indifference, contempt and malevolence by the Melbourne and Sydney symphony orchestras. The people who chose repertoire for those two orchestras and who had charge of the selection of artists during this period should hang their heads in shame at their neglect of him.”
The Eulogy sees Keating re-stage his funeral oration, around which director Janine Hosking weaves a long-overdue commemoration for the under-appreciated musician.
Music educator Richard Gill goes on a journey to rediscover and restore Tozer’s historical legacy, while interviews with family and friends offer revealing, previously unearthed insights into his life and loves.
The Eulogy comes to Geelong Performing Arts Centre at 4pm on Saturday for one show only.
The show is part of the Melbourne International Film Festival Travelling Showcase.