Magazine article Gramophone

A Welcome Reminder of a Genius Pianist: Bryce Morrison Welcomes an RCA Set Devoted to the Unconventional Andre Tchaikowsky

Magazine article Gramophone

A Welcome Reminder of a Genius Pianist: Bryce Morrison Welcomes an RCA Set Devoted to the Unconventional Andre Tchaikowsky

Article excerpt

Andre Tchaikowsky (1935-82) was a pianist who scorned convention and decorum and, with breathtaking audacity, went his own way, never less than true to his conflicted and extraordinary nature. His death at the age of 46 robbed the world of a mercurial genius in the sense that his gifts went beyond comprehension, his endlessly enquiring mind and imagination backed by a phenomenal command. At the same time he was in every sense an 'angry young man' capable of antagonising many who crossed his path. Indeed, it was those most sympathetic to his cause who suffered the whiplash of his rudeness and contempt (as Arthur Rubinstein, no less, found to his cost). And listening to this four-disc issue of his complete RCA recordings it is hard to think of him listening to playbacks (like Artur Schnabel, Myra Hess and Radu Lupu he disliked studio conditions and the recording process) and easier to think of him coming close to blows with producers anxious to curb what they saw as his wildness and excess. Blisteringly intense, though capable of sudden retreats into repose and serenity, his unique personality could engulf and ignite everything in its path. Geniuses rarely win competitions and so his third prize, coming after Vladimir Ashkenazy and John Browning at the 1956 Queen Elizabeth Competition in Brussels is perhaps understandable, though with the compensation of a superior placing to Cecile Ousset and Lazar Berman.

And so to the actual playing and a constant sense of provocation and revelation. Tchaikowsky, who was born Robert Andrzej Krauthammer, later changed to Czajowski and still later to Tchaikowsky, was for long imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto and narrowly escaped the Holocaust. His mother was not so lucky, perishing at Treblinka, and it is not hard to see in his volatile nature an inner turmoil reflecting his circumstances. How else to explain his way in his selection of the Chopin Preludes of his radical re-think of No 14 in E flat minor, or perhaps I should say, 're-feel', such is his idiosyncrasy. What dark and swirling glitter he achieves in No 8, what soaring rhetoric in No 24. He is better behaved, as it were, in the Barcarolle and even if you hear Dinu Lipatti--most courteous of critics as well as a transcendental pianist--gently chiding Tchaikowsky for exaggeration, he would surely have been among the first to celebrate his greatness. …

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