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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Goodman, Moses Isidore (Isador) (1909–1982)

by Ann Carr-Boyd

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Moses Isidore (Isador) Goodman (1909-1982), pianist, composer and conductor, was born on 27 May 1909 at Cape Town, South Africa, elder child of Nathan Goodman, mercer, and his wife Sarah, née Crown. Isidore (later Isador) made his first public appearance at the age of 7, playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.20 in D minor with the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra. At age 13 he went to London to study at the Royal College of Music, making his début there in 1926. He won an open scholarship and the Chappell and Challen gold medals, and was appointed to the staff.

Arriving in Australia at the end of 1929, Goodman joined the New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music in Sydney. The appointment of a young pianoforte teacher from abroad caused some resentment. He gave his first performance in February 1930 at the conservatorium and played in the ceremony for the inauguration of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in 1932. In order to supplement his income he crossed the barrier between the worlds of classical and popular music, playing jazz and lighter music for clubs and cinemas. He married Pattie Evelyn Nathan on 29 January 1933 at the Great Synagogue, Sydney; they were divorced in 1936. In 1942-44 Goodman served in the Militia and the Australian Imperial Force, rising to temporary captain in the Australian Army Education Service. While attached to headquarters, New Guinea Force, in April-May 1944, he gave concerts and wrote, by lamplight, New Guinea Fantasy, which was recorded by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

Between 1946 and 1948 Goodman toured England, appearing with the Hallé, British Broadcasting Corporation Theatre, Phil-harmonia and London Symphony orchestras. He also played for radio and television and recorded for Decca Records Ltd. In 1949 he married Sadie Seltzer at Cape Town; the marriage was brief. That year he resumed his concert appearances in Sydney. He married Hope Tillett, née Rodgers, a 29-year-old widow, on 5 July 1952 at the registrar general’s office, Sydney. Divorcing her in November 1959, he married 23-year-old Virginia McGregor on 12 December at the registrar general’s office, Sydney.

Although remembered best as a concert pianist who toured Australia extensively, Goodman also broadcast for radio and television and performed in stage productions. He recorded many works including Richard Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto, Henry Litolff’s Scherzo from Concerto Symphonique No.2, George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No.1 and Sergei Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.2, as well as the romantic work Idyll by Lindley Evans, an Australian composer and a friend. In 1968 he returned to the conservatorium and taught there until 1980. The Australian composer Margaret Brandman thought he was `encouraging and effective’ as a teacher; he introduced her to an eclectic range of music and instilled a love of the chords that feature strongly in Romantic music. His playing suffered a setback when his left hand was injured in a car accident in 1969 but he made a successful comeback to the concert stage in 1973 and continued to perform until 1982. His activities as a conductor included forming theatre orchestras in Melbourne and Sydney. He was the composer and musical director for the films The Burgomeister (1935) and Jedda (1955).

Tall and thin with aquiline features, Goodman had long fingers. When playing the piano, his hand position was fairly flat, but this unconventional technique did not hinder his command of the keyboard; Brandman described his playing as `effortless and with subtle nuances’. Sir Neville Cardus said it was as `natural as spring air’ and wrote of his `light-fingered iridescence’ and the `brilliant and lovely technique’ he placed at the service of the composers. He was appointed AM in 1981. Survived by his wife and their daughter, he died on 2 December 1982 at Concord and was cremated. His recorded works have enjoyed multiple re-releases, as well as regular broadcasts, many years after his death.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Brasch, Australian Jews of Today (1977)
  • V. Goodman, Isador Goodman (1983)
  • D. Collins, Sounds From the Stables (2001)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 26 May 1973, p 2, 3 Dec 1982, p 12
  • Canberra Times, 3 Dec 1982, p 9
  • series B883, item VX117152 (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

Ann Carr-Boyd, 'Goodman, Moses Isidore (Isador) (1909–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 25 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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