of André Tchaikowsky
Divided: André Tchaikowsky in his own Words
Tchaikowsky: Die tägliche Mühe ein Mensch zu sein
Other Tchaikowsky: A Biographical Sketch
about Dr. Anastasia Belina-Johnson
Biography of André Tchaikowsky
At the age of 9, Andrzej began formal piano studies at the State School in Lodz where his teacher was Emma Altberg, herself a student of the great Wanda Landowska. An extraordinary talent, he continued to the Paris Conservatory in 1948 becoming the youngest student ever admitted to the higher class of Professor Lazar-Lévy. His first public performance was in Paris in 1948 where he played Chopin and his own compositions. He graduated from the Paris Conservatory in 1950 with Gold Medals in sight-reading and piano performance at the age of 14.
Returning to Poland in 1950, he studied at the State Music Academy in Sopot under Prof. Olga Iliwicka-Dabrowska, and starting in 1951 at the State Music Academy in Warsaw under Prof. Stanislaw Szpinalski for piano and Kazimierz Sikorski for composition. He was awarded membership in the Polish Composers Union at the age of 15 after submitting his Suite for Piano. Of the Suite, Membership Committee Chairman Zygmunt Mycielski wrote, "Andrzej Czajkowski shows considerable composing talent through his musical inventiveness, which is remarkable for such a young boy. I can state the Czajkowski undoubtedly possesses a great talent, musicality, and originality."
In 1955, Andrzej Czajkowski won 8th prize in the Chopin Competition in Warsaw, and the next year, Czajkowski took part in the 1956 Queen Elizabeth of Belgium Competition, winning third prize, which launched his international career. Jury member Arthur Rubinstein was quoted as saying, "I think André Tchaikowsky is one of the finest pianists of our generation - he is even better than that - he is a wonderful musician." Under the auspices of the world's leading impresario, Sol Hurok, and with the considerable assistance of Arthur Rubinstein, huge concert tours followed for André Tchaikowsky (Hurok insisted on the Western spelling). Starting in 1956, André continued his piano studies in Brussels with the famous Polish pianist Stefan Askenase, and in 1957, composition with Nadia Boulanger at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau. It was at Fontainebleau that he completed a piano concerto dedicated to the American pianist John Browning.
In some recital programs, André slyly programmed his own compositions, including a Sonata (1958) by Uyu Dal (say, Oooo-you Doll). He also played with the major world orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under Dimitri Mitropoulos, Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Fritz Reiner and the Los Angeles Symphony under Jean Martinon, to name just a few. Several recordings were completed for RCA Victor and Pathé Columbia Records, adding to his busy schedule.
In 1960, André moved from Paris to London and started to divide his time between concert dates and composing. While this effectively ended his career as an international virtuoso, his remaining recital and concert dates provided a living and allowed him the time he wanted for composing and other interests such as Shakespeare's plays, playing bridge, and correspondence. This pattern of playing and composing continued until June 26th, 1982, when his life was claimed by colon cancer. He was 46 years old. His opera, The Merchant of Venice, was finished less the last 24 measures of orchestration, which were completed by composer Alan Boustead.
André was best known as a highly regarded pianist of the first rank, with highly individual and subjective interpretations in comparison to the "classic" interpretations. André gave to his performances a rare feeling of color and contour. His Chopin playing was witty, often with strong rubato and changes in tempi, but always revealing the structure of the composition. As a pianist, André thought musically first, and pianistically second.
As a composer, this review of a performance André's Trio Notturno comes close to describing the genius in André's compositions: "Having pledged himself to balance anew the unwieldy, sometimes inequitable, partnership of violin and cello with the modern grand piano, André Tchaikowsky proposed a linear basic texture, its outlines ornate, almost baroque, rich in harmonic density, passionately argumentative in expression. The two abruptly contrasted movements challenge instrumental virtuosity at every turn; they might have sounded simply hard going, but were revealed, with formidable cogency, as invigorating to play, and listen to, especially in the rapid middle section of the second movement, an alarmingly brilliant feat of the imagination."
- Common Errors
Date of Birth - Some biographies report André Tchaikowsky was born in 1936 instead of 1935. The André Tchaikowsky archives include a copy of the wedding license and legal ceremony between Felicja Rappaport and Karl Krauthammer (André parents) that took place in in Paris on December 11, 1934. It is further known and supported by documentation that Felicja was pregnant a few months after marriage, which would be early 1935, thus, the birth date of André Tchaikowsky on November 1, 1935 is almost certainly correct.
Death of Parents - It is widely reported that both of André parents died during WW II, which is incorrect. André's father, Karl Krauthammer, survived the war in France, indeed, André met his father in Paris in 1948. The purpose of the 1948 meeting was to ask the father to support André financially, which the father declined when he found out that André wanted to be a musician instead of a lawyer or a man of business. André retaliated by "killing" his father for all biographical purposes, however, there was a reconciliation with his father in 1980. André's mother, Felicja, was rounded up in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 and taken to the Treblinka Death Camp where she was murdered.
André Escaped to Paris - André did escape the Warsaw Ghetto with his Grandmother Celina with false papers showing he was "Andrzej Czajkowski" instead of "Robert Andrzej Krauthammer." However, André and Celina went into hiding in various places, were eventually caught up in the Warsaw 1944 Polish Uprising and at the end of the war were in the Pruszkow Concentration Camp as ordinary Polish citizens. There were many close calls in being discovered as Jews but Celina was nothing short of amazing in protecting and saving André (and herself) from the death camps. Paris came later, in 1948, when André entered the Paris Conservatory.