André Tchaikowsky

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Not to be confused with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
André Tchaikowsky as a young man

André Tchaikowsky (also Andrzej Czajkowski; born Robert Andrzej Krauthammer; November 1, 1935 – June 26, 1982) was a Polish composer and pianist.

Life and career[edit]

Robert Andrzej Krauthammer was born in Warsaw in 1935. He had shown musical talent from an early age, and his mother, an amateur pianist, was teaching him the piano when he was only four years old. His family were Jewish; when the Second World War broke out, they were moved into the Warsaw Ghetto. Krauthammer remained here until 1942, when he was smuggled out and provided with forged identity papers that renamed him Andrzej Czajkowski; he then went into hiding with his grandmother, Celina. The pair remained hidden until 1944, when they were caught up in the Warsaw Uprising, and they were then sent to Pruszkow Concentration Camp as ordinary Polish citizens, from which they were released in 1945. Tchaikowsky's father, Karl Krauthammer, also survived the war, and remarried, producing a daughter, Katherine Krauthammer-Vogt; Tchaikowsky's mother, Felicja Krauthammer (née Rappaport) was rounded up in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942, and perished in Treblinka.[1]

Andrzej Czajkowski, as he then was (he later adopted the spelling André Tchaikowsky), resumed his lessons at age 9 in Lodz State School, under the tuition of Emma Altberg (herself once a student of Wanda Landowska); from here, he proceeded to Paris, where Lazare Lévy took over his education, and where he would also break off relations with his father for many years after an argument.[1]

After his return to Poland (1950), he studied at the State Music Academy in Sopot under Prof. Olga Iliwicka-Dąbrowska, and later at the State Music Academy in Warszawa under Prof. Stanisław Szpinalski. Already during his studies he began developing his concert career, displaying his showmanship through public performances of Bach's Goldberg Variations, Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 and astounding listeners with improvisations on any given theme. From 1951, he took composition classes with Prof. Kazimierz Sikorski.

After his success at the fifth International Chopin Piano Competition, where he won the 8th award (1955), Tchaikowsky left to study in Brussels under Stefan Askenase.[2] As a result of his co-operation with the famous Polish pianist, Tchaikowsky took part in the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition, winning third prize (1956).

In 1957, he gave a series of recitals in Paris, performing all of Ravel's compositions for piano in honor of the twentieth anniversary of the French composer's death. During the same time, he consulted Nadia Boulanger at Fontainbleau in matter of composition, as well as establishing contacts with Arthur Rubinstein.

Despite his success as a pianist, André Tchaikowsky’s greatest passion was composition. He wrote a Piano Concerto, String Quartet, a setting of Shakespeare's Seven Sonnets for voice with piano, a Piano Trio and several compositions for piano solo. He began work on an opera, a setting of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. He made several recordings of his work for the EMI label.

For RCA Red Seal and Columbia EMI, he recorded works by Bach (Goldberg Variations), Haydn (two Sonatas, Variations in F minor), Mozart (Concerto in C major, two Sonatas and minor works), Schubert (waltzes, ländlers, German dances), Chopin (15 mazurkas) as well as Fauré (Piano Quartet in C minor).

Skull[edit]

In accordance with Tchaikowsky's wishes, his skull has been used as a theatrical prop by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Here, actor David Tennant uses Tchaikowsky's skull in a 2008 production of Hamlet.

Tchaikowsky died of colon cancer at the age of 46 in Oxford.[1][3] In his will he left his body to medical research, and donated his skull to the Royal Shakespeare Company, asking that it be used as a prop on stage.[4] Tchaikowsky hoped that his skull would be used for the skull of Yorick in productions of Hamlet.[5] For many years, no actor or director felt comfortable using a real skull in performances, although it was occasionally used in rehearsals. In 2008, the skull was finally held by David Tennant in a series of performances of Hamlet at the Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon.[6] After the use of Tchaikowsky's skull was revealed in the press, this production of Hamlet moved to the West End and the RSC announced that they would no longer use Tchaikowsky's skull (a spokesman said that it would be "too distracting for the audience").[7] However, this was a deception; in fact, the skull was used throughout the production's West End run, and in a subsequent television adaptation broadcast on BBC2.[8] Director Gregory Doran said, "Andre Tchaikowsky's skull was a very important part of our production of Hamlet, and despite all the hype about him, he meant a great deal to the company."[8]

Notable compositions[edit]

  • Sonata for clarinet and piano, Op. 1 (1959)
  • Piano inventions, Op. 2 (1961–1962)
  • First String Quartet in A major, Op.3 (1969–1970)
  • Second Piano Concerto, Op. 4 (1966–1971)
  • Second String Quartet in C major, Op. 5 (1973–1975)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Ferré, David A. "Summary Biography". André Tchaikowsky website. Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  2. ^ "Weinberger Music Biography of Tchaikowsky". JW Music Publishers. Archived from the original on 18 December 2007. Retrieved 10 January 2008. 
  3. ^ Kosinska, Malgorzata (October 2006). "Andrzej Czajkowski". at culture.pl. Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  4. ^ Lappin, Elena (26 June 2005). "'The Woman From Hamburg': The One Who Survived". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 January 2008. 
  5. ^ Ferré, David A. (2009) [1991]. "Story of the Skull". André Tchaikowsky website. Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  6. ^ "Bequeathed skull stars in Hamlet". BBC News. 26 November 2008. Retrieved 26 November 2008. 
  7. ^ "'Hamlet' trades real skull for fake". United Press International. 4 December 2008. Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  8. ^ a b "David Tennant to revive partnership with real skull for BBC's Hamlet". The Daily Telegraph. 24 November 2009. Retrieved 2 December 2009. [dead link]

Bibliography[edit]

David A Ferré: 'André Tchaikovsky', Music and Musicians (December 1985)

External links[edit]