Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant the accuracy of closed captions. These are derived automatically from the broadcaster's signal.
Talking Heads -

View in ParlView

(generated from captions) reach the pedals. But his feet wouldn't with Hungary's top orchestras. Before long he was playing the course of his life But war changed a young migrant to Australia. and he came as Here he became Maestro Tommy Tycho. his 60th anniversary And this year he celebrates as a professional musician. THEME MUSIC to you have you here. Maestro, it's great Thank you very much for joining us. It's nice of you to invite me. Music is your passion. It is. Your whole life. without having some music around. I can't see a day whether I conduct it Whether I play it,

or whether I'm just listening to it. Tell us what it does for you. at least every day of my life If I don't have music I feel cheated and I feel depressed. gonna listen to tonight? And what are you I don't know yet. It depends on my mood. Probably a symphonic work more exciting for me to listen to because there's nothing with its myriads of colours. as a large orchestra So what makes it come together? Those moments of pure glory. I don't know. and I don't mind admitting it, I just suddenly feel, something that I really love that at times when I hear I start crying. Well, Tommy, let's look back began in Hungary. at where your musical heritage OK. Hungary in 1928. I was born in Budapest,

to become a musician. And I was determined 'RHAPSODY IN BLUE' PLAYS My dad was a top executive in Hungary. of the Electricity Commission and famous opera singer in Europe. And my mother was a well-known

I was very close to my parents. when I was still a young man. Although my father passed away myself and my elder sister. It came to mother to bring up We were a close family. virtually started from my birth. My passion for music But I realised by the time accomplished playing the piano, I started to become quite eight years of age, which was at about seven, that's going to be my profession. That's going to be my life. BLUES MUSIC PLAYS Was Egon Petri My piano teacher's name from the United States who just returned 'Rhapsody in Blue'. with George Gershwin's I ended up playing it for him. And eventually And he was so impressed by it playing 'Rhapsody in Blue' that I ended up at the age of 10. with the Budapest Philharmonic (Orchestra plays jazz) In 1939, the world was at my feet

and suddenly disaster struck. (Speaks German) FROM 'PEER GYNT' BY GRIEG PLAYS 'THE DEATH OF ASE'

have had was shattered Whatever dreams I may by Hungary entering into WWII. conscripted into a labour battalion. Being Jewish, I have been And we were treated like subhumans. of stale bread and water. Our diet was consisting

terrible situation. And it was a terrible, who survived the Holocaust. I was one of the lucky ones And when I returned to Budapest a total uncertainty surrounded me. I didn't know what was gonna happen. in playing in a dance band I had to resort to put some food on the table. I want to see the world. In 1947, I decided that by a band leader I was given an opportunity to go to Tehran, Iran. JAZZ MUSIC of culture shock at first. My life in Tehran was in a Central European country Having been living to all of a sudden being confronted food, different everything. by different culture, different It was a challenge. I loved it after a while to get used to. but it took a little while you say about those days Tell me, one of the things were ever a real child. is you don't think you could be a child, really. No, no child prodigy, Peter, robbed from that time Because it is being around or doing all that. of going out and kicking a football occupied with practising And I was constantly and being involved in music. as an older person, don't you? But you say that Yes. that's all you wanted to do. In those days That's all I wanted to do. away from the eat. And mum really had to drag me Yes. Your mother, Helen... ..was a soprano. Yes, a very well-known soprano.

a couple of times. And alas, I only heard her the two kids were born Because the moment she gave up her career. That was the Central European mode. A wife was a wife - and bringing up children. cooking a meal And not being on the stage. about your dad dying When you think back a very impressionable age... when you were at What do you think? Yes. that's had on you? What impact do you think tragedy until I was much older. I really didn't realise that filled up the role Because Mother has of being a mother and the father. And then the Holocaust came absolutely astray. and things just went Well, let's talk about the Holocaust. You were brought up not as Jewish. but you were brought up as Lutheran. You had a Jewish grandfather Both parents practising Lutherans. Yes. Yes. I came home from school one day very bad news to tell you. and my mother said, "I've got "You're Jewish." And I said, "So what?" And she said, "Well, because of the Nazi regime "we'll go through a terrible time." by saying, "I don't care." And I just threw it off I, of course, realised later on that Mother said. the prophetic words When I was taken away into forced labour... with all the same-aged kids And what was forced labour like? Um... Food was virtually nonexistent. about 12 - 14 hours a day. And we had to work Summer or winter. be pretty cold in Hungary. And the winter can So it was...terror. What has all that done to you? has closed over your heart? Do you think that to some extent At that time, the tragedy really didn't strike. It was years afterwards that I remembered all this horror. And used to wake up in the middle of the night screaming.

And... It's one of those things that a human being can eventually get over. Which I did. But it has pursued for a number of years. Now, the Americans ultimately are in Budapest. They want entertainment. Yes. Tommy, you provided it. Well, I didn't provide it by myself. (Laughs) I was picked up by a band leader who was quite well-known in Hungary at the time... I couldn't believe you knew jazz. No, but the first time I've heard Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey... ..and Benny Goodman and all that - I loved it. And my professor Leo Weiner said - "Why are you occupying yourself with this kind of music?" Rubbish? Rubbish.

(Laughs) That's right. And I said, "Well, I've got to live and I've got to support my family." Well, you say "support the family". And, of course, the expectation was that you would provide support for the family. Was that involved...that obligation, that sense of responsibility in your choice to go to Tehran? No, I think I went to Tehran because I wanted to get out of Europe which to me already felt to be a cesspool. A snake's pit of political turbulence. And also a young man, single young man - I wanted to see the world. Whilst you're in Iran, you meet another Hungarian. Yes. Eve, who became the bedrock of your love life. Yes, yes. His Master's Voice wanted to make a recording with Eve. And I was the natural choice. She being Hungarian-born, I'm being Hungarian-born. We met... The record never took place, the marriage did. (Laughs) And you could have gone to the US? Yeah. You wanted to move. Australia, South Africa, the US - were all options. But Australia wrote back first, did they? And it was a good omen. Well, so it is to Australia. Let's have a look at that chapter in your life. In 1950, both Eve and I decided that gypsy life is enough for us. to emigrate to Australia. And we decided It was reasonably easy for us to integrate into life in Australia because both of us spoke English. And we both made a very strong effort in assimilating with the Australian people. In order to put some bread on the table I worked at David Jones as a storeman. Eventually I started to make weekly broadcasts on ABC Radio called 'Handful of Keys'. RADIO: This is the ABC. BLUES MUSIC I still can thank the ABC hierarchy at the time because it has catapulted me and my name into the consciousness of the audience in general. LIVELY MUSIC Television began in Australia in 1956. And I was very fortunate to join the band at Channel 7. In those days we were all learning on the job, as it were. Because we never knew anything about television. It was difficult at times, of course,

with all the mistakes that we all made. It was part of the fun. And eventually Channel 7 got the wonderful show called 'Review 61'. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to 'Review '61'.

It was a unique program of its kind in Australia. And, of course, a lot of people then afterwards started to copy our style. But it was the first one of its kind with a big ensemble of people in general. And it has virtually set the trend in musical productions in Australian television. (All sing) # The Mavis Bramston Show. # I think the secret of 'The Mavis Bramston Show' was its irreverence. Poking fun at everything and everybody. And I think a lot of people got angry when they heard some of the things that we have telecast. They'll show you theirs if you'll show them yours... But the great majority of the audiences loved it. (Plays a complex piece)

Ones that I enjoyed mostly were the big musical extravaganza with a lot of budget involved in it like 'The Saturday Show'. And that one particularly I enjoyed because I had the opportunity of conducting the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra with a premier performance of my Cole Porter concerto which was the first time it was performed. APPLAUSE After having left Channel 7 I had the great opportunity of starting to conduct all the symphony orchestras around Australia.

(Orchestra plays Strauss waltz) There is nothing more satisfying that standing in front of a very expert bunch of musicians. And guide them through a lot of music. Because a conductor's job is to be a guide and not a tyrant. MUSIC CONCLUDES DRAMATICALLY Maestro, you look like you've packed several lives into that. Yes, I did. (Laughs) 20 years or so. So you had the brilliant good luck of being there at the beginning, the dawn of television. Yes. When television stations actually employed quite big orchestras. Yes, they did. A 30-piece orchestra, wasn't it? Yes. 20 singers? 20 singers, 16 dancers. It was mammoth but the productions showed it. And the program on Seven which was then called 'Sydney Tonight'. It ran six nights a week. And on Sunday, just to make it a bit more difficult

we had a classical program live on air from 12:30... So how on earth did you cope with all of this? I was young, Peter. (Laughs) But I have got an...

..a huge amount of energy, even today. Everyone who is anyone came on shows like this too. And you met some great people. Yes, I did. Mel Torme? Jerry Lewis. Yes... Jerry Lewis, Ethel Merman. Louis Armstrong. The list is endless virtually. What did you learn from these people? I had the opportunity and the gumption of watching them.

Of how they treat television, how they treat audience connection, how they treat comedy.

It was overall a huge amount of entertainment that I learnt from these people. I remember you saying about Jerry Lewis that... ..he would end a performance in a complete sweat. Yes, on one occasion. And he invited me to his dressing room and saying, "Look, I'm totally wringing wet." And I said, "Well, you just did a couple of hours "solo out on the stage." He said, "No, no, no. "It took me a long time to get this audience to keep going. "I'll show it to you on the night-time show." And he invited me again after the night-time show. He was bone-dry. And he said, "You see?" "I was well prepared for the night-time show." "I wasn't on the other one." If you have the innate talent what is it that actually stands in the way of seeing it through, because talent alone is not enough? No, it's not. What is it? I wish I knew.

But I think some very clever bloke once said that it's 90% of perspiration and 10% of inspiration. So, discipline? Definitely discipline. And I live by that. It's my religion. I live by the discipline daily that I have to do what I do otherwise life is not worth living. Someone observed that amateurs practise till they get it right. Professionals practise till they know they won't get it wrong. How true. That's a very clever statement.

Has that been the hallmark of your life? Behind the... Yes. Behind the maestro, behind the appearance of effortless ability. Yes, it has. I'm a perfectionist. And I get very depressed if I can't attain or achieve that level of perfection. It was during the '60s you were a household name. Into the '70s... You leave Channel 7 in 1971. And actually things aren't all roses after that, are they? You went into a bit of decline personally. I went into a decline but it was a personal choice. I've... I was burnt out. You come to a point where enough is enough. And you can't cope with it anymore. And so then you'd give away the certainty of the permanency of work. And you take on commissions. You conduct all our orchestras around Australia. Yes, yes. And I still do and I still enjoy it immensely. But I had to find my audience which took a number of years to build up to. And now I can proudly say that when my name is being advertised the audiences come in KNOWING what they're going to get.

Well, Tommy, let's have a look at your life today. PIANO MUSIC It's in my psyche that I'm a musician. And it had to be. I was predestined for various reasons, my inheritance from my mother's talent. And I feel that music is the only thing that can satisfy my soul and my whole being. So basically if I don't do any music, I'm lost. Did anyone call when I was out? Yes, Gregg rang. Yeah? And said he'll be along shortly... Eve is an anchor in my life. A musician's or a conductor's life is topsy-turvy at the best of times. She's the one who holds me down and keeps me on the straight and narrow. And I can never be thankful enough. JAZZ MUSIC I have a very close relationship with Vicky, my daughter. Because she is one of those people who doesn't look at other aspects of me except as a performer. And I rely a great deal on what she says to me after a performance. I think we played on one of those at the Entertainment Centre. It's going to sound really corny but he's my best friend. We performed...played piano together for 10 years.

And I'd look up and I'd see his smiling face. And it was a wonderful experience to share with your Dad. Let's just see how it works out, OK? From C? Yeah... (Sings) # I feel my skin... # A few years ago I realised that all the experience that I have been able to enjoy throughout my long career has to be somehow given over to the new generation. And now it has become a great part of my life

to try to foster and help young talent and I enjoy it immensely. Seeing their eager reception of all the things that I'm able to give them. (Sings) # You are my girl... # I don't understand how he's so humble. (Laughs) I mean...the people he's worked with. You look around his room. I mean, you've got Nat Cole, Sammy Davis Jr.,

I mean, my God. He's an unbelievable legend. (Sings) # Everything. # (Laughs) Nice. Yeah. I made a promise to myself when I was a young man. That once I lose the spirit of what I'm doing I will give it up.

So far I have not and I hope that that day will never come. I'm 77 years of age and I hope that I will be able to continue doing this for a long time yet. Well, Tommy, as you say there, you're 77. Yes. 25 years ago you had the Rolls Royce of surgeons - Victor Chang - work on your heart. That's a nice expression. (Laughs) You had a quadruple bypass.

Life or death. (Sighs) Yes, it was. And after the operation and when I recovered I suddenly realised how close I was of passing and it changed my entire thinking. In what way? Up to that point I was so engrossed and so involved in music that nothing else stared me in the face. After that I realised that...mortality is very close. So how did it change your life in a practical sense? Diet and the living style that I have led up to that. Like 80 cigarettes a day. Yep. Which of course fortunately I have given up before the operation. And in a general sense I value virtually every minute of the day that I live. Well, is one of the things you drew from that your determination to nurture people? Because you've been very important to careers. Yes, I realise that all the incredible experience that I have been able to get from my career, now is the time for me to be able to give it back to all those people that deserve it. Anthony Warlow, for example. Anthony Warlow - brilliant. Jackie Love... Diana Trask. Diana Trask, my God. That was one of the early ones. Tommy, does someone who's had an outstanding musical career like you... To the outsider it puzzles me. To what extent are you still living your Central European heritage? And to what extent are you Australian? I'm a dinky-di Australian in spite of my accent. But the musical heritage that I brought with me is obvious. And it can't be denied. It's...sort of injected into me as a child. And I've been growing up with music all around me. So it's... An obvious trace of it would have to be in my music. You haven't made that many trips back to Hungary. Only three? No, I was too busy and I was too happy in doing what I was doing. Because I love this country with a fervour that is really indescribable. Well, that places you very nicely to actually comment on where symphony orchestras are at the moment. Because many of our state symphonies are really struggling. They are struggling which is a great pity because they are the flagships of the musical expression in any country. They're going through some of the same things that happened on television. The orchestras are contracting because of economic pressures. Yes, the economy is the problem. But I hope that it will never... Yet we're rich. We're rich as a country. But we're more occupied with sport than with art. You've had many, many, many friends. Legions of admirers and friends. And yet you say you've never really had a close friend. By that I presume you mean a male close friend. Not really, because I was so busy with what I was doing that I didn't have time to really enlarge on a friendship. I've got lots of friends. Hmm. And lots of acquaintances. Do you regret that? No, I don't. I don't. Simply comes back again to the musical output that I've had. And you can't do that half-heartedly. And at 77 you might not be doing as many concerts as you did before but you're still actively engaged 10 hours a day. Yes, I am. Yes, I am. Because without the involvement of, and I repeat myself again, without the involvement of music in my life I find it empty. And I need it like a glass of water. Or oxygen. How would you like to be remembered? (Sighs) I guess somebody who has been able to bring some valuable musical...presence to the Australian culture. You've stirred millions of us. Tommy, thank you very much for joining us. Thank you, Peter. Thank you. Closed Captions provided by Captioning and Subtitling International Pty Ltd Next week on Talking Heads - Betty Churcher. I was putting on the blockbuster exhibition 'cause I realise you've gotta encourage your audience to keep coming back. Tomorrow night on 'Second Opinion'. My wife has said, "You're not breathing during the night." A sleep apnoea sufferer tries Buteyko. And can Affects therapy help someone with a fear of flying get airborne?