Wednesday 22 November 2023

The other Tchaikowsky violin concerto: as Polish composer André Tchaikowsky's concerto gets its UK premiere we look at the work's intriguing history.

André Tchaikowsky in 1975
André Tchaikowsky in 1975

If you glance quickly at the concert information for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra's performances on 8 and 9 December 2023, you could easily come away with the idea that both evenings are devoted to Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker conducted by Andrey Boreyko. You would not be entirely wrong, but the concert also includes the Scottish premieres of Nova by Victoria Poleva and the Violin Concerto "Classico" by André Tchaikowsky.

The Violin Concerto is, I think, the work's UK premiere and only its third ever performance, all with soloist Ilya Gringolts. But the work is not a recent one, and in fact dates from the 1960s. André Tchaikowsky met the violinist Sylvia Rosenberg in March 1962, they became friends and formed piano-violin duo, giving concerts together. André Tchaikowsky wrote a violin concerto for her, they got as far as playing it through and she made comments. But then relations between the two became strained and the concerto was put to one side. A reconciliation brought the work back into the mix, but by then it was too late and André Tchaikowsky died in 1982. The original manuscript, which in the Josef Weinberger archives, was found after André Tchaikowsky's death at the bottom of a laundry basket, and the work was only first performed in 2021 in Warsaw.

Born in Poland in 1935 as Robert Andrzej Krauthammer, André Tchaikowsky took that name as false identity when he was smuggled out of the Warsaw ghetto in 1942. Talented young, in both piano and composition, he returned to Poland after the war to continue his studies, winning the 8th prize in the Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 1955 and gaining the support of Artur Rubenstein. From 1956 he studied piano in Brussels and then composition with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, finally moving to London, where he divided his career between playing and composing. His music has never gained the traction it really deserves, perhaps partly through the confusion of name. There is more information at the website devoted to the composer.

You can catch the Berlin recording of the Violin Concerto with Andrey Boreyko conducting the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin and soloist Ilya Gringolts on YouTube.

Andrey Boreyko conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra with violinist Ilya Gringolts in Victoria Poleva' s Nova, André Tchaikowsky's Violin Concerto "Classico" and Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker at Usher Hall, Edinburgh (8/12/2023) and Glasgow Royal Concert Hall (9/12/2023), further information from the RSNO website.

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