A Musician Divided: André Tchaikowsky in his Own Words
André Tchaikowsky was only 46 when he died. But his brilliance as a pianist had made him a familiar figure on the world’s concert platforms – and he made the headlines after his death when he left his skull to the Royal Shakespeare Company for use in performances of Hamlet. Yet for all his facility at the keyboard Tchaikowsky’s real passion was composition, and at the time of his death he had all but finished his magnum opus, an opera based on Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Its premiere at the 2013 Bregenz Festival seems set to bring Tchaikowsky the composer the fame in the 21st century that escaped him in the twentieth.
The internal conflict between pianist and composer compounded an already complex character. A Polish Jew, Tchaikowsky had survived the Holocaust hidden by his grandmother in a Warsaw cupboard, and it was she who gave the young Andrzej Krauthammer the name Tchaikowsky to help fool the Nazis. Already an outsider as a Jew and deeply ambivalent towards his family, Tchaikowsky was also a homosexual – yet another disruptive element in a troubled personality.
The diaries Tchaikowsky kept between 1974 and his death chronicle the struggles that ran through his life. Debt kept driving him back to the concert platform when his true wish was to find the time to compose. Relationships came and went, undermined by his insecurity – although Tchaikowsky generated fierce loyalty among his friends. His spirited writing reveals him to have been astonishingly well read, familiar with the literatures of a number of European languages, and he details the joys and vicissitudes of his life with striking candour.
The diaries – an autobiography in all but name – are introduced and annotated by Anastasia Belina-Johnson, who also provides a chronology of Tchaikowsky’s life and a survey of his music.
A CD – a private recording of an informal recital in Australia – allows the reader to hear the voice behind the words and experience Tchaikowsky’s remarkable musicianship.