Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Variations in F minor, Hob.XV11:6 [9:08]
Piano Sonata in E flat major, Hob.XV1:49 [16:42]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Sonata in F Major, KV.533/494 [18:23]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13 [24:37]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Piano Sonata No. 3 in A minor, Op.28 [8:30]
André Tchaikowsky (piano)
rec. 10 April 1964, Hamburg (Haydn, Mozart), 26 March 1963, Stuttgart (Schumann), 20 January 1962, Baden-Baden (Prokofiev). radio studio recordings
MELOCLASSIC MC1035 [77:20]

Arthur Rubinstein, his compatriot, thought very highly of André Tchaikowsky. Whilst acknowledging his achievements as a concert pianist, he also recognized his more wide-ranging musicianship. Many may be unaware that Tchaikowsky was also a composer with many notable works to his name. A couple of years ago I reviewed the belated world premiere of his opera The Merchant of Venice, produced and directed by David Pountney and staged at the 2013 Bregenz Festival. Toccata Classics released Volume 1 of his piano music in 2014.

As for Tchaikowsky the pianist, his commercial discography is meagre; he died from colon cancer at the young age of forty-six in 1982. In 1996 Dante issued five volumes of his complete Columbia (EMI) recordings which included Bach’s Goldberg Variations and a selection of Chopin Mazurkas, plus some Haydn, Mozart and Schubert. None of these volumes are now available. His RCA legacy was never issued on CD, apart from a disc featuring Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K.503, which was released in Japan some years ago. Then in 2014 Forgotten Records took up the mantle and issued the Mozart, Chopin, Ravel and Prokofiev recordings he made for the company in the late nineteen-fifties (review; review).

This new disc of radio studio recordings is warmly welcomed. The airings were taped between 1962 and 1964. The Haydn and Mozart items were also recorded commercially for Columbia in 1966-7 in Paris, but the Schumann and Prokofiev are, as far as I know, new to the pianist’s discography. A head to head comparison of the Haydn and Mozart works with their later commercial counterparts is revealing. The interpretations are very similar but the pianist omits the exposition repeats in the opening movements of the two sonatas and all repeats in the Haydn Variations in these radio recordings, whereas observing them in the Columbias. I’m very taken by Tchaikowsky’s approach to the Viennese masters. The readings are notable for their elegance, poise and refinement. Tempi appear well-judged. Slow movements are lyrically expressive and he eschews the overly romantic tendency of some and favours a more classically restrained and sober approach.

Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13 brim with exuberance and confidence. Take Etude IX, for example, where his impulsive, passionate and bold beginning truly evokes the piece's Florestan character, whilst the dreamy Eusebius is realised in the second part. Etude VIII is stark and weighty, whereas Etude XI is beguiling and overflowing with fervour. The short Prokofiev Sonata is full of passion and drama. Tchaikowsky delivers a virile account of emotional urgency and rhythmic energy.

Meloclassic are to be lauded for further expanding this pianist’s scant discography. Seemingly expertly restored from the original masters, the audio quality is exceptionally fine considering the age and provenance of the recordings. Amazingly, the piano tone in the Haydn and Mozart works is brighter and more vivid than in the later commercial re-runs. The booklet notes, containing some interesting photographs, have been written by David Ferré, who maintains the André Tchaikowsky website.

For those interested, Toccata Press have published a biography of the pianist: "A Musician Divided - André Tchaikowsky in his Own Words" by André Tchaikowsky and Anastasia Belina-Johnson (editor) (review).

Stephen Greenbank