At last, a premier assessment

At last, a premier assessment


norman lebrecht

August 26, 2009

The Australian has just taken note of the death of the nation’s leading pianist, Geoffrey Tozer, almost a week after the sad event. But unlike the belated and bone-headed coverage in the Melbourne Age, the national Murdoch paper has got in a proper reaction – from the former prime minister Paul Keating.

Never one to mince words, Keating lays into his country’s dumbed values, saying of Tozer:

“Had he been a boneheaded footballer who was biffing fellow players and chasing women down hotel corridors late at night he would have probably had a premium on his career. But to have been among one of a handful of the world’s greatest pianists with all of that learning and comprehension was not quite up to it.”

This is pretty much what you read here earlier in the week, but coming from a national leader, it stands out as a massive indictment of Australian priorities. Not that it will make any difference.

The writer of the obit recalls that Tozer was to be found at his finest at the national academy of music, ANAM, where he taught and where I met him a couple of years back. Since then ANAM has been shut down by the federal government. In a land that abhors tall poppies, there can be no centre of national excellence.

Advance, Australia fair…




  • Mike says:

    The ANAM was *not* shut down.
    Advance, fact checking…
    NL replies: Oh, no? Well they were on the brink of shutting it down last year. A face-saving solution was constructed and the axe is still poised. Reality check required…

  • Mike says:

    “A face-saving solution was constructed”
    – is that in reference to your claim that it was closed?
    “In a land that abhors tall poppies, there can be no centre of national excellence.”
    Note also that the plan was not to eliminate such a centre but to transfer the ANAM funding to a different body under the auspices of the University of Melbourne.
    Less spin, more reportage please.

  • Midnight Soil says:

    If you think the closure of ANAM was an action worthy of Atilla the Hun (the Minister for the Arts who mandated this atrocity is a multi millionair pop singer), what is to be said about the grab by the VC of Melbourne University, Queenslander and Ruddite Glyn Davies, thought by some to be behind the ANAM closure, for the Australian College for the Arts. This has galvanised former Premier of Victoria Jeff Kennett to marshal every former Arts Minister for Victoria, Labour and Liberal, to protest. Elitism is alive and well in Australia, so long as it is confined to sport and soi-disant celebrities. Being more egalitarian than the philistine English, Australians do not defer to or envy these persons, for they all cherish the dream that they will one day be as rich as they are.

  • Well said, Norman. I was born in Adelaide, but I consider Australians far far worse in their world awareness now than in, say, the Eighties. It is shocking really. Tozer should have been abroad abroad abroad (only). Australia is a country that does not tolerate individuals. There is not individuality in the country. Having said that, the UK jettisoned Australia on its own after joining the EU in 1974, so the way forward is for a real country with a forward looking aspect and its own head of state. And Australians, listen to Mozart’s piano concertos sometimes (instead of evening TV news or sports casts)–you don’t really need more music that that!

  • JohnofOz says:

    Talk about threads going walkabout…..
    FWIW, Midnightsoil is clearly referring to the Victorian (not Australian) College of the Arts. To quote from some balancing material sent to Alumni by the referenced “Ruddite”, the VCA has been associated with the University of Melbourne for some twenty years, and has been a separate faculty of the University since 2007. The funding issue dates back, it is said, to cuts of one third in the VCA budget made back in 2003 by the then Liberal government. The funding shortfall has been made up by the University since that time. The letter also addresses the issue of implementation of the “Melbourne Model”. In the University’s defence it is claimed this model is adaptable and not an “invariant” approach to curriculum development.
    I regret I cannot provide a link to the letter as it appears neither on the University’s nor the VCA’s website, at least as far as I can find. If the letter is just spin, it is factually based spin and does address some of the concerns expressed in the media.
    For the record, I am a believer in both the VCA and ANAM. They have both produced some fine musicians (although perhaps not yet another Geoffrey Tozer). they both might benefit from some change.