Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Nocturne in E flat major, Op. 55 no. 2 [5:07]
Impromptu in G flat major, Op. 51 [4:23]
Étude in A minor, Op. 25 no. 4 [1:30]
Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op.61 [11:15]
Prelude in C sharp minor, Op. 45 [4:11]
Étude in A flat major, Op. 10 no. 10 [1:50]
Mazurka in C minor, Op. 56 no. 3 [5:24]
Mazurka in F minor, Op. 63 no. 2 [1:34]
Mazurka in B major, Op. 56 no. 1 [3:51]
Scherzo no. 4 in E major, Op. 54 [9:07]
Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21 [26:14]
André Tchaikowsky (piano)
Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra/Zdzisław Górzyński
rec. February–March 1955, Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall, 5th International Chopin Competition. Polish Radio

This release is part of the ‘Blue Series’ project by the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, which features performances by some of the high profile pianists who have taken part in the International Chopin Piano Competition. In this case the pianist is the Polish André Tchaikowsky (1935-1982). A general overview of the composer/pianist is laid out in my review of his biography: A Musician Divided - André Tchaikowsky in his Own Words by André Tchaikowsky and Anastasia Belina-Johnson (Toccata Press, 2013).  Tchaikowsky entered the fifth International Chopin Piano Competition in 1955, where he came eighth; Adam Harasiewicz from Poland came first. A year later he took part in the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition, winning third prize. These recordings emanate from the archives of Polish radio and document three stages of auditions that took place in February and March of 1955.

Tchaikowsky’s commercial listings amount to only ten records, made for RCA Victor and Columbia at the start of his career. There are several reasons for this meagre legacy. He was renowned for being a difficult, uncooperative and, at times, abrasive personality and this in turn alienated him from conductors and record producers. His shortcomings likewise affected his concert career, especially in the States. He had an intense dislike of the social mores of the concert-giving circuit, and especially the patronage of the arts in America at the time by rich socialite women. Live airings pop up from time to time, all helping to enrich, expand and fill in the lacunae of his discography. As well as these Polish recordings, I recently reviewed some German radio broadcasts taped in the early 1960s and newly released by Meloclassic.

The pianist didn’t record the Chopin Concerto No. 2 commercially, so this live airing is of significance. Tchaikowsky shows himself to be no shrinking violet in this music. From the opening bars of the first movement he’s forthright and assertive and plays with commanding authority. Górzyński makes the most of the composer’s rather weak orchestration by emphasizing the colours and textures. The slow movement is particularly successful. Tchaikowsky doesn’t court vulgarity by wallowing, but invests the music with nobility and reverential refinement. The finale is briskly paced, and there’s a tangible infectious energy which has exceptional appeal. Judging by the enthusiastic applause, the audience certainly enjoyed it.

As for the solo items, there are several gems. In the E flat Nocturne Op. 55 no. 2, Tchaikowsky contours the long melodic lines with tender lyricism, whilst the buoyant rhythmic gait of the G flat Impromptu sweeps you along. The breathtaking virtuosity he brings to the two Études makes me wish he’d set down commercial inscriptions of the two cycles. The technically challenging 4th Scherzo is adeptly rendered if on the fleet-footed side. The enchanting Polish folk song that sits in the centre is seductive and beguiling. My only reservation is with the Polonaise-Fantaisie, which doesn’t work for me. I find it staid and pedestrian and short on poetic insights. Either he was having a bad day, or it just wasn’t his piece.

For their age, these recordings sound pretty good. This is a highly desirable release of inspired and captivating performances, caught on the wing.

Stephen Greenbank
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