A Musician Divided: André ŽTchaikowsky in his Own Words

Edited by Anastasia Belina-Johnson
Foreword by David Pountney
Extant: 434
Composition: Royal octavo ~ Recordings of André Tchaikowsky's Music ~ André Tchaikowsky's Recordings ~ Index of Tchaikowsky's Music ~ General Index ~ CD of André Tchaikowsky in recital
Illustrations: 72

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.

1 review for A Musician Divided: André ŽTchaikowsky in his Own Words

  1. :

    I met André Tchaikowsky briefly a couple of times in London in the late 1960s, so I was curious to learn more about him. I wasn’t at all prepared for the power of this book. AT was a wonderfully authentic writer in his fourth (?) language. He draws you in every sentence through his intelligence, his strikingly honest opinions on everything and everybody in his life, and the completely open way he comments on his own “divided” life: the schism between performing (to make a living) and composing (his avocation), as well as the shame he gradually learns to release about being Jewish and gay, becoming more able to accept himself for being himself. The biography at the beginning and the section on his compositions at the end are a great bonus. The book is a labour of love. It also makes me keen to dive into the recordings of his compositions. Bravo, Toccata and everyone concerned!

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *