André Tchaikowsky (1935-1982): Polish, British, or cosmopolitan?

The Dome, Bramall Music Building
Arts and Law
Wednesday 19th October 2016 (13:00)
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  • Music Colloquium series 2016-2017

Speaker: Anastasia Belina-Johnson (Royal College of Music)

Venue: The Dome, Bramall Music Building (3rd Floor)


In 2008, David Tennant held the skull of André Tchaikowsky in his theatrical performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Much has been written about Tchaikowsky’s donating his skull to the RSC, but little is known about the donor himself. Tchaikowsky belongs to the generation of Polish Jews whose harrowing life stories show the extent of human suffering during the Holocaust. After studying at the Paris Conservatoire and the State Music Academy in Warsaw, Tchaikowsky won the third prize in the Queen Elizabeth of Belgium Competition, which launched his international career in 1956. In 1960, he moved to England and started to divide his time between performing and composing until his death in 1982. In 1981, he completed his opera, The Merchant of Venice, which was premiered on 18 July 2013 in Bregenzer Festspiele, with following performances in Warsaw (2014), Cardiff (2016), and the Royal Opera House, London (2017).

This paper will discuss Tchaikowsky, placing him and his work in the context of twentieth-century music. I will evaluate how he viewed himself in the international musical genealogy through examination of primary sources such as the composer’s diaries (never seen or published hitherto), letters, and interviews.


Dr Anastasia Belina-Johnson is a writer, musicologist, presenter, and opera director, author and editor of several books and articles on Russian music, opera. Wagner, and Polish music. She was instrumental in bringing André Tchaikowsky’s opera The Merchant of Venice (1982) to international stages, working with David Pountney on achieving the world premiere of the work in Bregenz Opera Festival in 2013, with following performances in Warsaw (2013), Cardiff (2016), and the Royal Opera House, UK, (2017).

Her publications include Die tägliche Mühe ein Mensch zu sein (Wolke Verlag, 2013); A Musician Divided: André Tchaikowsky in his own Words (Toccata Classics, 2013), Wagner in Russia, Poland and the Czech Lands: Musical, Literary, and Cultural Perspectives (Ashgate, 2013) (co-edited with Stephen Muir), and The Business of Opera (Ashgate, 2015) (co-edited with Derek Scott).

She has appeared in a documentary Rebel of the Keys about the life of André Tchaikowsky (, and appeared in discussion with Tom Service on Music Matters on BBC 3 in January 2013 (

She has been an International Artistic Director of Koncerty Urodzinowe Chopina (Birthday Concerts of Chopin Music Festival), Warsaw, since 2013.

Belina-Johnson is currently working on her next book, on German-language operetta in Warsaw in 1906-1939.

She is currently a Deputy Head of Programmes at the Royal College of Music, London.


Belina-Johnson, Anastasia. A Musician Divided: André Tchaikowsky in his own Words (Toccata Classics, 2013), pp. 21-81.