1962 Richard Goldner and Musica Viva in the 1960s
My introduction to Musica Viva came in 1956 just before my father died. I was a fairly grubby fourteen-year old student at the Conservatorium High School competing in the City of Sydney Eisteddfod, run by the utterly terrifying Molly Gunn. My father made it his annual holiday to come down from our old farm at Ourimbah for the Eisteddfod. This year the adjudicator was Richard Goldner.
Richard gave me the first prize in a Concerto section, commenting that I played Mozart like Tchaikovsky. My father thought this was a compliment as he hated prissy Mozart playing and when Richard was fishing for a match to light his cigarette my Dad, also a smoker, threw him a box of matches from the audience.
It was several years later that Margaret Berriman asked if I would like to join her string quartet to be coached by Richard. I did not like him very much then as he was a fearsome coach who took no prisoners, worked relentlessly on our faults and managed in a short time to offend all of us. However, soon I could see the results and was learning things I knew I desperately needed to learn so I hung in there, facing up to my limitations and actually working on them instead of denying their existence. Then Richard started to take me seriously.
After my diploma exams at the Conservatorium were over I began to study with Richard and this was an intense period culminating in my winning the ABC Concerto and Vocal Competition in 1962. I will never forget what generosity and determination he brought to my learning process. He seemed to understand me in a way nobody ever had before. His knowledge of technique and musicianship were deep and all his students at the time benefited from his instinctive ability to pinpoint and isolate a problem and solve it without senseless repetition of one’s errors. His unpublished book, The Hidden Cause, remains a source of wisdom.
THE PEOPLE OF MUSICA VIVA
Musica Viva at the time was run by a triumvirate of honorary office holders, all of whom gave endless amounts of time, enthusiasm and expertise to the organisation. Ken Tribe was President, Charles Berg was Treasurer and Richard was Musical Director, a position he held for twenty years. Regina Ridge was the only salaried staff and was an enormously efficient manager. She was a little hard to get to know but was a kind and thoughtful soul when she decided she liked you. Robert Pikler and Ernest Llewellyn were generous with their time and expertise also.
Many people opened their homes for workshops where young ensembles were coached, an excellent audience-building strategy as listeners learned and gained enthusiasm as well as the players. The Wenkart home in Wahroonga and Chalwin’s castle in Cremorne were frequent destinations. The Wenkarts also hosted many overseas visiting artists, many of the soviet bloc greats who were happy to stay in a home with real people and probably also to save their meagre allowances. Thus it happened that when the young Austral String Quartet were playing, a long arm appeared to turn cellist Greg Elmaloglu’s page, none other than Mstislav Rostropovich. Greg nearly fell off his chair.
There was also a very active Younger Group, consisting of university students, young professionals and musicians. Music was the reason for shoulder-rubbing between young and old, overseas and local musicians, interstate representatives and music critics, composers, writers and other interested parties. Friendships and even romances flourished.
THE EASTER FESTIVALS
The wonderful Easter Festivals are something I cherish enormously in retrospect.
Frensham School in Mittagong was ideal and was a connection provided by Ernest Llewellyn. The cool weather was a great excuse for Charles Berg to wear his lovely suede jacket, the school kitchen’s porridge served at breakfast was something Ken Tribe and I reminded each other of years later and the fun had with overseas players playing chamber music all night with the help of a bottle of Scotch was memorable.
I made friends there who stayed with me for the rest of their lives; Michael Kuttner and Dénes Koromzay from the Hungarian Quartet, and Berl Senofsky, the Scotch drinker, who wore us all out starting with the professionals and ending with us students as the night wore on.
Inspired choices of groups and soloists! Lily Krauss, who was so articulate and romantic at the same time, playing Mozart on the piano with such love and inspiration. The interstate regulars: the Nemets, the Spiras, Henry Wenig, the Glickmans from Melbourne and Edith Dubsky from Adelaide. The wonderful Dullos from Sydney.
THE SUPPORTIVE SOCIETY
Mr Dullo was with Richard right at the start of Musica Viva and his enormous knowledge and love of music made him a lifelong figure in the organisation. When I went overseas, Musica Viva scheduled a series of recitals to raise funds for me. Mr Dullo was at the door of the Cell Block Theatre collecting those funds. Richard and I spent many happy occasions listening to his collection of records which he would select carefully for our visits.
So Musica Viva played a huge part in my musical development. It brought the world of music here to me with the best of our local and overseas musicians aided by the ‘reffos’ who were so formative to all of us at the time.
This photograph shows students with Richard at the Sydney Conservatorium; his students at the time included Ceska Baret, Margaret and Merle Berriman, Suzanne Borrett, Catherine O’Flynne, Charmian Gadd, Cherelle Gadge, Robert Harris, Irena Morozov (as she was known then), Dayle Stevens, and Boris (Bob) Tepper.
This photograph is of Harry Curby, who after being appointed first violinist of the Sydney String Quartet with Robert Pikler as violist, enlisted Richard’s help with some quartet parts and was working intensively with Richard.
AN AMAZING MAN
Many of us took for granted Richard’s extraordinary energy reserves. I knew that by the sixties his great fortune from the sale of his invention that allowed him to start Musica Viva had been sadly depleted. He and wife Mandi were driving all the way to St Marys every morning to work in the factory of Eric Cuckson, another ‘reffo’ with a brilliant mind and a much better head for finances. [As an aside, Eric’s son Robert was a gifted pianist working with Alexander Sverjensky at the Conservatorium and he and I played many sonatas together.]
After a nightmare commute from Mosman to St Marys and back Richard would come to the Conservatorium and work till late at night with his class of students and groups he was coaching. An amazing man!
Charmian Gadd married Richard Goldner in 1970. The two of them moved to the USA in 1977 to teach and perform and returned to Australia in 1988. Charmian continues to perform and mentor outstanding young musicians.