André Tchaikowsky (1935-1982) was only 46 when he died. But his brilliance as a pianist had made him a familiar figure on the world’s concert platforms – and he made the headlines after his death when he left his skull to the Royal Shakespeare Company for use in performances of Hamlet.
Yet for all his facility at the keyboard Tchaikowsky’s real passion was composition, and at the time of his death he had all but finished his magnum opus, an opera based on Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Its premiere at the 2013 Bregenz Festival seems set to bring Tchaikowsky the composer the fame in the 21st century that escaped him in the twentieth.
The internal conflict between pianist and composer compounded an already complex character. A Polish Jew, Tchaikowsky had survived the Holocaust hidden by his grandmother in a Warsaw cupboard, and it was she who gave the young Andrzej Krauthammer the name Tchaikowsky to help fool the Nazis. Already an outsider as a Jew and deeply ambivalent towards his family, Tchaikowsky was also a homosexual – yet another disruptive element in a troubled personality.
Anastasia Belina was instrumental in helping to bring the name and music of the Polish British composer and pianist André Tchaikowsky to worldwide audiences.
She brought his opera The Merchant of Venice to the attention of opera director David Pountney, who ensured that the work finally had its premiere in 2013 at the Bregenz Festival (directed by Keith Warner), subsequently winning the Best World Premiere Award at the International Opera Awards in London in 2014. The opera was also performed in Warsaw and the UK, including Covent Garden.
Since 2013, she has published two books, a book chapter, articles, organised events, concerts, given public talks, made presentations at academic conferences and music festivals, and appeared in the documentary film Rebel of the Keys.
She remains committed to ensuring that Tchaikowsky's music is heard and his name is not forgotten.