Keller Was Bad for Me, the Worst Possible Teacher

At the end of the novel, Paul says, “Keller was bad for me, the worst possible teacher.” Do you agree?

In Peter Goldsworthy’s ‘Maestro’, Keller’s mysterious past and renunciation of the Romantics ruled his teaching style, subsequently suppressing Paul’s musical talent.   However in spite of this, it would be more reasonable to believe that Keller’s teaching methods suited Paul at the time of his “youthful arrogance”, Where other teachers may simply have swelled Paul’s already arrogant personality and failed to diminish his selfish and egotism, Keller attempts to teach Paul about life. He teaches Paul to be more realistic in his expectations as Paul discovers that he is unable to attain perfection or fulfill his ambition of becoming a concert pianist. Ultimately Paul’s judgment that Keller was the “worst possible teacher” is largely unfounded, as it seems he was actually the biggest single influence on Paul’s life.

Although it may be true that Paul might not be a concert pianist, which Keller describes as “one in a million”, it could be argued that Keller’s teaching was musically limiting due to his complete rejection of the Romantics. Keller’s experiences with the Nazis and the death of his wife and child forced him to immerse himself in the technical side of music to rid himself of troubling and unresolved emotion. This has a terrible effect on Paul who becomes ‘obsessed by technique in a way that Keller would never have approved”. Keller teaches Paul to be suspicious of beauty, which may have impacted on Paul’s ability to play with rubato and achieve the “musical perfection” he desired. By the end of the novel Paul has accepted that “a technical perfection” is all he “has any hope of attaining”. Keller’s teaching appears to be somewhat responsible for this, during his visit to Austria, Paul is told: “You did not learn from Eduard Keller. His students played with…with far more…rubato”. This leads Paul to believe that the Keller he learnt from and the Keller...