Toccata Press have recently published a book entitled “A Musician Divided: Andre Tchaikowsky in his own words”, which I have just reviewed here
. In conjunction with this publication, Toccata have released the first recordings, in a proposed series, of his compositions; this one entitled ‘Music for Piano’.
It will come as news to many that Tchaikowsky was a composer as well as a world-renowned concert pianist. What comes out in the book is that he regarded himself primarily as a composer, and his role as a pianist as being a means of financially supporting this end. Reading between the lines, one senses a certain resentment at the demands on his time required to sustain a career as a concert pianist, in terms of both daily practice and travel.
The Piano Concerto, Op. 4 was, in fact, his second concerto for that instrument. A first Piano Concerto was written in 1957, and premiered by the composer that same year. Since that time it has fallen into obscurity. The Concerto featured here had a lengthy gestation. It was begun in 1966 and not completed until !971. It was premiered by none other than Radu Lupu, a close personal friend of the composer. That was in 1975 at the Royal Festival Hall, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Uri Segal. A complex work, it took Lupu six months to learn, and he received its final dedication. Two further performances were given by the composer himself in Ireland in 1978, and he performed it for the last time shortly before his death in 1981 in Hagen, Germany. The performance here is a first recording.
The Concerto is in the form of three interlinked movements. After an almost menacing opening of a couple of minutes the piano finally enters the fray. Throughout, the music borders on atonality in parts, and one also detects neo-classical elements, especially in the Capriccio
final movement. It is a powerful work and a masterstroke of scoring. Yet, there is a great economy of expression in the writing. This is a live performance from the Bregenz Festspiele. The recording engineers have managed to achieve a bright, translucent and vivid sound, which allows the complex orchestral textures to emerge with clarity and definition. The balance between the piano and orchestra is ideal. Paul Daniel, who conducts the performance, brings out all the drama and orchestral detail. Reflection, melancholy and an element of torture, in parts, are satisfactorily realized yet, Daniel is able to energize the score where required.
The ten Inventions, Op.2 date from 1961-62. Each of these short, concise pieces is dedicated to one of Tchaikowsky’s friends, and each reflects the individual character of that dedicatee. Throughout, one discerns hints of Shostakovich, Bartók, Stravinsky and Schoenberg.
The 1958 Piano Sonata shows a highly developed musical language in its intricacy. Like the Piano Concerto, it presents the pianist with substantial technical challenges, yet it is well written for the piano, an advantage when the composer is himself an accomplished pianist. There are echoes of the Second Viennese School, with the work hovering between tonality and atonality. It here receives its first recording.
The solo piano items are heard in compelling and committed readings. The Venue, Leeds College of Music provides an ideal acoustic.
The excellent, comprehensive notes are written by Dr. Anastasia Belina-Johnson, the author and editor of the Tchaikowsky book. Nico de Villiers, the pianist in the Sonata, contributes his own notes on this very fine composition.
These are works which definitely cry out for more circulation. Certainly, the Piano Concerto is a work I will return to often.