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The Maestro
‘Maestro’ is a book written by Peter Goldsworthy. The novel has many different contrasts within the text. Eduard Keller was highly regarded in Vienna as a fine pianist, so to be taught by him as Paul was, would be a great honour. Paul, who could be considered a relatively poor student, had to focus very hard to become the pianist he dreamed he was capable of becoming. To become a concerto pianist was nearly an impossible task and Keller at many times throughout the novel hinted to Paul that he may not possess the talent that a concerto pianist requires. Keller was not only an intelligent piano teacher but also a life teacher for Paul. Keller teaches everything that Paul can learn in a method that would be the best for a young man to understand, it is up to Paul to take it all in and learn from the Maestro’s teaching.

Taught by the best to be the best, Keller grew up in Vienna. He was taught piano by Leschetizky who was highly regarded as one of the best pianists and teachers of the day. Keller taught in a manner that Paul had never before experienced. When Paul and Keller first met, Paul was arrogant and sure that there was nothing that this man could possibly teach him. What was foreign to Paul he did not accept, therefore when Keller tried to teach him in his unique style Paul could not accept it. Keller taught from the ground up no matter how experienced you were. “First you must learn to listen.” Keller’s arrogant manner made Paul feel inferior, but that was how Keller taught. Paul hated this style but it proved to be a very effective method. This kind of unconventional teaching was what made Keller the unique and extraordinary teacher that he was.

Paul’s talents on the piano were not perfect, tuition was a necessity to be the best pianist he could be. When Paul and his band ‘Rough Stuff’ travelled to Adelaide, Paul was also due to play in a piano competition at The Conservatorium. Both Keller and Paul knew that this ‘band’ was not good for his piano career and was simply a drain on Paul’s precious practice time before his first genuine piano competition. Keller did not push him to quit the band; he hoped rather that Paul would leave knowing that there was no point in staying in a band that was basically going nowhere. “It simplifies, prevents thought, gives easy orders”, was what Keller had to say of the rock and roll music that Paul’s band played. On their trip to Adelaide, Keller taught not only piano to Paul, but life lessons as well. “I have taught you everything you were able to learn”, Keller explained to Paul about his piano playing when Paul was deciding what to do with his future.

Paul and Keller both faced the same problem at some stage in their life where they had the inability understand to what was reality and what was façade. Keller tried to show Paul through his stories that it is much easier to face up to reality instead of living in a delusional world. Keller confesses to Paul, before Paul leaves for university, about the times that he had mistaken reality for façade. “The evil would pass, I told my wife. No engagements. No invitations. Snubbed by former friends, music directors . . .” In spite of this discussion between Paul and Keller, Paul did not heed the meaning of the stories Keller had told him and continued to dream of becoming the concert pianist that he still believed was his destiny. By the end of the novel, Paul has still not attained the perfection he strives for – he was unable to recognise that he would not be a virtuoso.

Keller had learnt about life through making mistakes and Paul learns how to live his life through experiences as well. The difference is that Paul had not lived long enough to have many life changing experiences so therefore is considered a poor student in comparison to Keller, an excellent teacher. “Who would touch the wife of Herr Keller?” Learning from mistakes is what Keller has done to give him the wisdom that he possesses. The wisdom that Keller possessed made him the teacher that he was to Paul. Paul on the other hand was a young, egotistical student who thought he would become a concerto pianist. “Liszt told Leschetizky. Who told Keller. Who told me.” Statements like this did not help Paul at all and just made him think of himself as superior to all other pianists in his class. Paul was taught everything he could learn about playing the piano, it was how he absorbed this information that made or broke him as a concert pianist.

Keller taught in an unconventional method, which made him an exceptional teacher for Paul. One of the finest things that Keller taught Paul was to understand that there are boundaries to everything you learn. Paul took some time to learn this lesson but was better for it when he did finally discover it. The Maestro was continuously teaching Paul in every aspect of life, because he saw a younger Maestro in Paul. While Keller was a great teacher for Paul; Paul did not return the favour by being a good student to Keller.