Maestro Summary and Analysis of 1974


Paul gives a brief overview of his next few years at the Conservatorium in Adelaide. His law studies quickly fall by the wayside as a succession of teachers encourage him to focus on music. Keller's lessons have turned into dogma for Paul, making it difficult for him to work with other teachers. He wins many awards and becomes cocky about his skills.

Mr. and Mrs. Crabbe move South during Paul's second year. His father buys a general practice, his mother gets a part-time library job, and they again become involved with the Gilbert and Sullivan society.

Paul writes to Keller infrequently. For Christmas in 1972, he sends Keller a tape of his Honors performance in Elder Hall, expecting him to treasure the recording. In response, Paul receives the tape back from Keller, along with a book full of notes critiquing his performance. He tells Paul to start back with the basics and extends Paul an invitation by saying that it would be much easier to play it for him. Paul instead chooses to spend all his holidays with Rosie, who he still loves as dearly as he did in Darwin, at her student house in Melbourne.

Presenting his parents with a Two-Year Plan for competing abroad, Paul spends through Christmas 1974 traveling the world trying to establish a career as a concert pianist. He drops Keller's name from his curriculum vitae after judges tease him for having learned from a dead man. Paul racks up a string of Honorable Mentions and other unimpressive outcomes in competitions.

A letter from his father informs Paul that a cyclone, Tracy, hit Darwin and totally destroyed the town. Keller survives the storm by taking shelter underneath his grand piano, and goes to stay with the Crabbes in Adelaide while the town is reconstructed.


Like the Intermezzo—in which Paul also leaves Darwin and Keller—this section is short, symbolizing the lack of importance Paul places on the periods in his life when he is not around Keller. Although this is a memoir, the absence of detail about Paul’s time in college and international competitions show that this book is not a memoir of Paul’s life, but a memoir of Paul and Keller’s relationship.

During his time with teachers other than Keller, Paul quickly falls prey to the vanities of praise and develops an ego. Although he considers Keller’s teachings to be law, his angry response to Keller's letter shows that Paul does not yet fully appreciate Keller or his superior piano skills. He does not think that his old teacher has anything else to teach him. This idea will reoccur at the end of the novel, but Paul will come to a much different conclusion.

In ignoring the implicit message in Keller's letter of his desire for Paul to come back to him, Paul is also prioritizing his own needs and desires over those of another. Keller made a similar choice in choosing to remain in Austria and continue performing during the Nazi regime only to have his wife and child captured and killed. Prioritizing others is a life lesson that Keller had silently tried to teach his pupil, but Paul ends up making the same types of mistakes as his teacher (albeit different in their specifics).

Paul’s choice to spend his vacation time with Rosie instead of visiting Keller alludes to the same conflict between his attachment to Keller and his own desires/sexuality that he experienced earlier in the novel. He follows the precedent he set out on his last day before leaving Darwin, and continues to pick his desires over Keller.

Keller’s life is marked by tragedy and disaster, and the cyclone that hits Darwin is yet another disaster that he must endure. Once again, everything around him is destroyed, but he manages to survive. Paul notes in particular that Keller survived the cyclone by hiding under his grand piano. Keller's hiding under the grand piano during the cyclone is symbolic of the way he has sought refuge from the previous catastrophes he has undergone in music.