The Polish pianist and composer, André Tchaikowsky [born: Robert Andrzej Krauthammer], began his piano studies at the age of 4 with his mother, an amateur pianist, but with the onset of World War II, the family was forced into the Warsaw Ghetto and the lessons ended. Smuggled out of the ghetto in 1942 and given false identity papers with the name “Andrzej Czajkowski” (Western spelling, André Tchaikowsky), he went into hiding with his Grandmother Celina until the end of the war.
At the age of 9, Andrzej began formal piano studies at the State School in Lodz where his teacher was Emma Altberg, herself a student of the great Wanda Landowska. An extraordinary talent, he continued to the Paris Conservatory in 1948 becoming the youngest student ever admitted to the higher class of Professor Lazar Lévy. His first public performance was in Paris in 1948 where he played Chopin and his own compositions. He graduated from the Paris Conservatory in 1950 with Gold Medals in sight-reading and piano performance at the age of 14.
Returning to Poland in 1950, he studied at the State Music Academy in Sopot under Prof. Olga Iliwicka-Dabrowska, and starting in 1951 at the State Music Academy in Warsaw under Professor Stanislaw Szpinalski for piano and Kazimierz Sikorski for composition. He was awarded membership in the Polish Composers Union at the age of 15 after submitting his Suite for Piano. Of the Suite, Membership Committee Chairman Zygmunt Mycielski wrote, "Andrzej Czajkowski shows considerable composing talent through his musical inventiveness, which is remarkable for such a young boy. I can state the Czajkowski undoubtedly possesses a great talent, musicality, and originality."
In 1955, Andrzej Czajkowski won 8th prize in the Chopin Competition in Warsaw, and the next year, Czajkowski took part in the 1956 Queen Elizabeth of Belgium Competition, winning 3rd prize, which launched his international career. Jury member Arthur Rubinstein was quoted as saying, "I think André Tchaikowsky is one of the finest pianists of our generation - he is even better than that - he is a wonderful musician." Under the auspices of the world's leading impresario, Sol Hurok, and with the considerable assistance of Arthur Rubinstein, huge concert tours followed for André Tchaikowsky (Hurok insisted on the Western spelling). Starting in 1956, André continued his piano studies in Brussels with the famous Polish pianist Stefan Askenase, and in 1957, composition with Nadia Boulanger at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau. It was at Fontainebleau that he completed a piano concerto dedicated to the American pianist John Browning. Then he went to England to continue his studies with Musgrave and later with Hans Keller.
In some recital programs, André Tchaikowsky slyly programmed his own compositions, including a Sonata (1958) by Uyu Dal (say, Oooo-you Doll). He also played with the major world orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under Dimitri Mitropoulos, Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Fritz Reiner and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra under Jean Martinon, to name just a few. Several recordings were completed for RCA Victor and Pathé Columbia Records, adding to his busy schedule.
In 1960, André Tchaikowsky moved from Paris to London and started to divide his time between concert dates and composing. While this effectively ended his career as an international virtuoso, his remaining recital and concert dates provided a living and allowed him the time he wanted for composing and other interests such as Shakespeare's plays, playing bridge, and correspondence. This pattern of playing and composing continued until June 26, 1982, when his life was claimed by colon cancer. He was 46 years old. An eccentric to the end, he bequeathed his skull to the Royal Shakespeare Company for use in the graveside scene in Hamlet ("Alas, poor, André, A fellow of infinite jest"); it made its debut in 1984. His opera, The Merchant of Venice, was finished less the last 24 measures of orchestration, which were completed by composer Alan Boustead.
André Tchaikowsky was best known as a highly regarded pianist of the first rank, with highly individual and subjective interpretations in comparison to the "classic" interpretations. André gave to his performances a rare feeling of color and contour. His Chopin playing was witty, often with strong rubato and changes in tempi, but always revealing the structure of the composition. As a pianist, André thought musically first, and pianistically second.
As a composer, this review of a performance André's Trio Notturno comes close to describing the genius in André's compositions: "Having pledged himself to balance anew the unwieldy, sometimes inequitable, partnership of violin and cello with the modern grand piano, André Tchaikowsky proposed a linear basic texture, its outlines ornate, almost baroque, rich in harmonic density, passionately argumentative in expression. The two abruptly contrasted movements challenge instrumental virtuosity at every turn; they might have sounded simply hard going, but were revealed, with formidable cogency, as invigorating to play, and listen to, especially in the rapid middle section of the second movement, an alarmingly brilliant feat of the imagination."