Geoffrey Tozer Biography

Geoffrey Tozer as a baby at the piano

‘When one has been touched by the stellar power and ethereal playing of a sublime musician, one is lifted, if only briefly, to a place beyond the realm of the temporal. Geoffrey Tozer did this for many people.’ — The Hon. Paul Keating

Geoffrey Tozer was born in 1954 in Missouri, India. His musical genius was recognised at an early age when, as a three year old, his music teacher mother, Veronica Tozer, recognised him playing parts of Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata on the piano. When Geoffrey was 4 years of age, he moved to Melbourne with his mother and brother Peter. There, on 27 August 1963, Geoffrey Tozer gave his first broadcast recital on ABC radio. Seven months later, on 13 April 1964 he performed the Bach F Minor Concerto with the Astra Chamber Orchestra conducted by George Logie-Smith at the Nicholas Hall in Melbourne.

During the 1960s he became the youngest recipient ever of the Winston Churchill Fellowship when he was thirteen, moving to England to further his studies.  In 1969 he became the youngest ever semi-finalist in the Leeds Piano Competition, later winning First Prize in both the Alex de Vries Piano Competition in Belgium and the Royal Overseas League Competition in London. He made his international debut on 17 August 1970 in London at the Royal Albert Hall playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 15 K 450 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Colin Davis. Important engagements followed with Tozer giving performances in Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, France and Britain, including invitations from Daniel Barenboim’s English Chamber Orchestra and from Benjamin Britten to perform at the 1971 Aldeburgh Festival. Tozer distinguished himself at Aldeburgh both as a recitalist and as an accompanist for the great cellist Rostropovich. 
During the 1970s and 1980s Geoffrey was the recipient of a number of awards. In 1973 he was a Semi-finalist at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas. In 1977 he won the Bronze Rubenstein medal in Israel followed by winning the gold medal in 1980. He was also awarded the Liszt Centenary Medal in 1986 for his contribution to the music of Franz Liszt. Throughout this period Geoffrey also travelled and performed extensively around the world.

Geoffrey Tozer the piano

In 1988 Geoffrey Tozer was one of seven inaugural recipients of the Creative Fellowship awards. These fellowships were funding grants introduced by then Australian Treasurer, Paul Keating for the purpose of supporting artists in mid-career. Geoffrey went on to receive a second Creative Fellowship in 1993. During the Creative Fellowship period, Geoffrey recorded 36 CDs for Chandos records, one of which won him a Grammy nomination in 1992 along with the Diapason d’Or prize and Gramophone Critics Record of the Year in 1997.

In the 1990s, Geoffrey’s highlights included the Australian premiere of the Medtner Piano Concerto No 1 in C Minor Opus 33 with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra (1992), the Medtner Piano Concerto No 2 in Finland, a performance conducted by Leif Segerstrom and broadcast in Europe (1993), Tozer’s first tour of China at the invitation of the Ministry of Culture, with recitals in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing and other cities (1993) and his performances of the complete sonatas of Beethoven at the Melbourne International Festival (1994). In 2001, Geoffrey also became the first Westerner to perform the Yellow River Concerto, which was broadcast live to an estimated audience of 80 million viewers.

Geoffrey Tozer gave his final public performance in June 2009 in Bendigo and later more privately for the nuns and brothers at Presentation Convent Chapel in Windsor. He passed away on the 21st August 2009 alone in his Melbourne home. Tozer’s private funeral was held in the Windsor Convent Chapel attended by close family and friends. Four weeks later, in accordance with Tozer’s wishes, his Memorial Service was held at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne. His eulogy was delivered by his friend and Former Australian Prime Minister, Paul Keating.

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