The 'Inventions' for Piano (1961-1963) - Opus 2
André was in the throes of composition in late December, 1962. A clue to all his activities surfaced in a letter to Beatrice Harthan, on December 19, 1962:
It seems to me that our relationship has reached an almost awesomely spiritual level! This is not all a bad thing in itself, provided you know that I do not forget you and think of you with the same old affection. It's not just to wish you Happy Christmas that I send you this note. It's first and foremost to invite you to a very private hearing of my recently completed 'Inventions' to be played by myself at Charles Napper's on January 22 . It's absolutely top secret, as only my most intimate friends are invited, so please don't breathe a word to anyone and don't bring anyone along when you come. If my friends are pleased with the music, then they and I can show them to anyone we like. There will only be ten people there in all. It is quite a problem to get these ten to come, and an almost worse one to keep others out! Please make quite sure you can come.
The surprise André had for Beatrice Harthan and nine other friends on January 22, 1963 was a performance of his piano suite the'Inventions.' The ten Inventions were musical cameos, one for each of ten friends. Between the time of the original manuscript (1961-1962) and the published manuscript (1975), there were some changes in the dedications [Original/Published]:
1. To Peter Feuchtwanger / To Peter Feuchtwanger
2. To Fou Ts’ong and Zamira Fou / To Fou Ts’ong
3. To Ilona Kabos / To Ilona Kabos
4. To Robert Cornford / To Robert Cornford
5A. To Charles and Lydia Napper / [deleted in published version]
5B. [not in original manuscript] / To Patrick Crommelynck
6. To Stefan and Anny Askenase / To Stefan Askenase
7. To Tamas Vasary / To Tamas Vasary
8. To Sheldon and Alicia Rich / To Sheldon and Alicia Rich
9. To Wendy-or Beatrice?-Harthan / To Wendy-or Beatrice?-Harthan
10. To Michael Riddall / To Michael Riddall
Invention 1 - To Peter Feuchtwanger
Peter Feuchtwanger was born in Munich, but his first musical and artistic education was in Israel. In 1951, Peter came to England and studied composition with Douglas Mews at Trinity College, where he also studied piano, percussion, and conducting. In 1954, he enrolled at the Zurich Conservatorium where he studied piano with Max Egger and composition with Paul Mueller. Peter returned to London in 1956 to study composition with Lennox Berkeley. In 1959, Peter composed 'Study No.1 in the Eastern Idiom,' Opus 3, which was dedicated to André Tchaikowsky. Subsequently, André performed the work during a South American tour. Although Feuchtwanger started on a career as a concert pianist, he decided quite early to concentrate on composition and teaching. In the latter category, he is particularly well-known. Martha Argerich: 'Peter Feuchtwanger has great experience as a teacher and to play for him has always been a great experience, his advice being extremely helpful, never arbitrary and of an incredibly high standard.'
Peter was André's first friend in England and was instrumental in convincing André to move his home base from Paris to London. This Invention is written in a dreamy style.
Invention 2 - To Fou Ts’ong
Fou Ts'ong was born in Shanghai in 1934. From an early age, he showed a great love for music. His talent was very much encouraged by his father, a highly cultured man who studied literature in Europe for many years. As a child, Fou Ts'ong studied with the Italian pianist and conductor, Mario Pad, a pupil of Sgambatti, who in turn was a pupil of Franz Liszt. Fou Ts'ong's first concert was in Shanghai in 1953, where he played Beethoven's first piano concerto. At a Bucharest piano competition in 1953, he won third prize. In 1954, he studied at the Warsaw Conservatory in Poland under Zbigniew Drzewicki, and in 1955, won third prize at the Chopin Competition. In 1958, Fou Ts'ong settled in England and became a British citizen. His repertoire covers a wide-range of composers from Scarlatti to the classical, romantic, impressionistic, and modem music.
André Tchaikowsky was a friend of Fou Ts'ong and his wife Zamira. Ts'ong's marriage ended in divorce, and Zamira was dropped as a dedicatee when the Inventions were published. The right hand in this invention represents Zamira -- quiet and thoughtful -- while the left hand represents Ts'ong -- loud and abrupt.
Invention 3 - To Ilona Kabos
British pianist Ilona Kabos was born in Budapest in 1893 and died in London in 1973. At the Liszt Academy in Budapest, she studied with Arpad Szendy (one of Liszt's last pupils), with Leo Weiner and with Kodaly. She won the Liszt Prize in 1915. She made her debut in Budapest in 1916, toured Holland, Germany and Austria in 1918, and from 1924 traveled extensively, giving first performances of works by Bartok, Kodaly, Weiner, Dallapiccola, Roy Harris, Chavez, and Seiber. For a time she was married to the Hungarian pianist Louis Kentner, and made a home in London. Her sense of style, refinement of taste and liveliness of mind in a wide artistic sphere made her one of the most esteemed teachers in the postwar decades -- among her pupils were Peter Frankl, John Ogdon, Norma Fisher, and Joseph Kalichstein. She gave master classes in the USA and in Europe, and made regular visits to Dartington Summer School.
André Tchaikowsky knew Ilona Kabos from his association with Charles Napper (Invention No. 5A). Napper, an amateur pianist, was instructed by Ilona Kabos. He established a musicians' hostel in Finchley (North London) for Ilona's students. Her student Norma Fisher became a champion of André's music.
Invention 4 - To Robert Cornford
Robert Cornford was born in Brazil of English parents in 1940. He spent his early childhood years there, but went to England to complete his normal education. He was admitted to the Royal College of Music where he studied composition with Bernard Stevens and Peter Racine Fricker, conducting with Richard Austin, and organ with George Thalben-Bal1 and Harold Darke. In 1960, he began his first professional work with engagements at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre and Royal Academy of Dramatic Art as musical director. In 1964, he assisted Benjamin Britten in the English Opera Group production of Curlew River. Cornford's compositions included television incidental music, film scores, and classical music, including 'Variations for Piano' (1974), a composition commissioned by André Tchaikowsky and first performed in Australia by André in 1975. For many years, Cornford lived in Europe, particularly Denmark, where he was active in music arranging and conducting. Cornford died on July 17, 1983, at the age of 43.
Cornford and André lived in the same house for a time. Sadly, Robert was a heavy drinker and destroyed himself through overwork and worry about financial and artistic concerns. It was one of the few situations where a friend of André's was in worse shape than André himself. This Invention is a high-speed Toccata.
Invention 5A - To Charles and Lydia Napper
Charles Napper was born in London in 1910. His childhood ambition was to be a pianist, but his father dissuaded him and he apprenticed as a lawyer. He opened his own solicitor's office and in the postwar boom profited with the property market. His passion for music as an amateur pianist gradually faded in favor of his studies of politics, philosophy, and religion. By 1965, he was devoting all his time to writing. He published two books on politics. He died in 1972.
Lydia Napper was born in New York in 1916. She studied at Vasser, Stanford, and the London School of Economics, during which time she met Charles. She worked for the US State Department during the war, returning to England in 1947. She was an active and admired hostess in their fashionable London home and was an excellent cook. She also played the piano, was a passionate concert-goer, travelled widely, and later in life studied archeology at the University of London. She died in 1980.
Charles and Lydia financed a concert series for André, lent money to André to buy a home, and supported him during his early years in England. When Charles became active in politics, André rejected the friendship and Invention 5A was replaced with 5B. However, Invention 5A reappeared in the Epilogue section of André's opera.
Invention 5B - To Patrick Crommelynck
The pianist Patrick Crommelynck was born in 1942 in Brussels, Belgium. As a youth, he studied with Stefan Askenase at the Brussels Conservatory. He then went to the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow for advanced study with Victor Maerjanov, and finally, in Vienna, with Dieter Weber. While in Vienna, Patrick met a Japanese student, Taeko Kuwata, who was also in the Dieter Weber class. After graduating in 1974, Patrick and Taeko married and formed a piano team, Duo Crommelynck. Their piano duo version of Brahms' 4th Symphony was mentioned in the American Fanfare magazine as: 'Amazing!' A compact disc recording of Debussy received rave notices in CD magazine. Inexplicably, Patrick and Taeko took their own lives in 1994.
Patrick Crommelynck and André met at the home of Stefan Askenase in 1957 when Patrick was 15 years old. Over the years, primarily through their common friendship with Stefan, Patrick and André became friends. When it became time to publish the Inventions, André wrote number 5B for Patrick to replace number 5A.
Invention 6 - To Stefan Askenase
Stefan Askenase was born in Lwow, Poland, in 1896, and died in Bonn, Germany in 1985 at the age of 89. He studied in Lwow under Theodor Pollak and at the Vienna Academy of Music under Emil van Sauer. After serving in the Austrian army during the first world war, he resumed his studies with Sauer and also studied composition with Joseph Marx. He made his debut in Vienna in 1919 and his first appearance with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra in 1920. He taught at a private conservatory in Cairo, 1922-25, and at the Rotterdam Conservatory, 1937-40. In 1950 he became a Belgian citizen and from 1954 to 1961 was a professor at the Brussels Conservatory. He gave master classes in Germany, Israel, and elsewhere in Europe. He was generally regarded as a Chopin specialist, in a style more expressive than brilliant, and his repertory also included the classics. He continued to concertize until his death, in 1985, after a concert at Cologne.
Stefan Askenase was probably a father-figure for André. André did play for Stefan, but André was already a top-flight musician and the meetings were more between friends than teacher-pupil. André stopped visiting Stefan when Stefan's wife, Anny, became ill and difficult. She died in 1971 and André deleted her as a dedicatee.
Invention 7 - To Tamas Vasary
Vasary was born in 1933 in Debrecen, Hungary. He was naturalized as a Swiss citizen in 1971. Gifted with a remarkable ear, Vasary gave his first recital at the age of eight. At the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, he studied mainly with Josef Gat, but he was also much influenced by Kodaly, who gave him a Steinway grand piano and invited him to take over half his solfege class as soon as Vasary's studentship was ended. Having won the Franz Liszt competition in 1948, Vasary began his career as an accompanist but quickly graduated to a soloist's status. During the 1956 uprising he left for Brussels, and soon afterwards settled near Geneva, Switzerland. Much-praised recordings of Liszt made in Brussels led to debuts in Vienna, Berlin, New York, Milan, and London in 1960-1961. In London, where he made his home, he was particularly warmly received. His virtuosity is delicate, his phrasing is seductive, and always at the service of a sensitive poetic imagination.
Tamas Vasary and André first met at the 1955 Chopin Competition and the next year at the 1956 Queen Elisabeth Competition. When André moved to London in 1960, Tamas was also living in London and they became friends. This Invention was inspired by Vasary's performance of Beethoven's Hammerklavier sonata.
Invention 8 - To Sheldon and Alicia Rich
Alicia Schachter-Rich was born in Argentina, trained as a concert pianist, and toured Europe, South America, and the United States. Sheldon Rich was from a wealthy American family and was occupied primarily as a film maker and author. As a recitalist and soloist Alicia has performed on three continents and at festivals at Marlboro, Cracow, and Aspen. She was acclaimed in Europe as 'a piano phenomenon rarely found among women' by Vienna's Die Presse, and for her 'breathtaking energy and dash' by The Times. The Rich's made a major contribution to American culture when they established the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival in 1973. The Festival plays for about one month each summer in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and then moves to other locations such as Seattle, Washington. Alicia acts as the Artististic Director and Sheldon as the Festival Director. At most festivals, Alicia is one of the performing artists. At the 1983 Festival, they programmed André Tchaikowsky's Trio Notturno (Opus 6), which was the United States premiere performance.
André and the Rich's became friends, but not the closest of friends, which might be the reason this husband/wife dedication was the only one that survived the original manuscript. André always called Sheldon 'Eeyore' after the Winnie the Pooh character. André was the godfather of their daughter, Andréa (born 1968).
Invention 9 - To Wendy - or Beatrice? - Harthan
Beatrice Harthan was born in 1902 in England. She was trained as a musician and played the organ at her parish church. In 1925, she married a minister/missionary and moved to China. Her husband, observing her hard work with children, called her 'quite a Wendy-girl.' The nickname stuck and she is known as both Wendy and Beatrice. After returning from China to England, she became involved in musical groups and was a close personal friend of composer Edmund Rubbra. In the Second World War, Beatrice was a WAF Officer. She met various musicians at concerts given at the military compound, including William Pleeth. For the years 1950 to 1954, she was manager of the Amadeus Quartet, and, for 17 years, was a page turner for concerts given by pianist Hephzibah Menuhin (sister of Yehudi). In her later years, she was Secretary and Almoner of the Sheriff's and Recorder's Fund at the Central Criminal Court. She was dubbed 'The Angel of Golden Lane' by Woman's Own Magazine in 1962, due to her sympathetic handling of the problems of prison wives and families.
Beatrice was introduced to André by Peter Feuchtwanger. If Stefan Askenase was André's father-figure, then Beatrice was André's mother-figure. She had a drill-sergeant personality but was supportive to struggling musicians. André secretly harbored ambivalent feelings about her and the Invention is marked 'Brusco' and 'Grottesco.' Harthan’s friendship with André ended when one day André announced, “I don’t want to see you any more, Wendy.” When Harthan asked why, André said, “Because that is what I want, and if you go to my concerts, you must not go ‘round to see me afterwards.”
Invention 10 - To Michael Riddall
Michael Riddall was born in England in 1938. After his normal schooling, he attended a medical college in Cambridge where he was active in amateur musical groups. Moving to London for additional medical training, Riddall formed a choir and orchestra consisting of amateur musicians who were also in the medical field. Riddall was the conductor of the ensemble. Passionately interested in music, he left the medical field and enrolled in the Royal College of Music, where he studied the clarinet. When Riddall met André Tchaikowsky in 1958, he was trying to decide whether to make has career in medicine or music. André helped Michael decide on a career in music. For the next five years, until 1963, Riddall was a clarinetist. André wrote for him a Sonata for Piano and Clarinet (1959). In 1963, Riddall decided to return to the medical profession. After his final years of medical training, he established a successful medical practice in South London.Michael Riddall acted as André's personal secretary from 1958 to 1963. Riddall recognized André's psychological problems and arranged for psychoanalysis with Dr. Graham Howe. Riddall also introduced André to George Lyward, who operated Finchden Manor, a home for troubled youth.
“Inventions” World Premiere
All the dedicatees of the 'Inventions' were present at the Napper's home on January 22, 1963, except Stefan and Anny Askenase. Stefan was giving a concert and was unable to change his plans. Susie Napper gives a young girl's account of the scene:
'Food preparation and cleaning, etc., started in the morning -- the cleaning lady hard at work bashing into the 18th century furniture legs with the vacuum cleaner (followed by polite scoldings from my parents). The gardener was polishing the silverware in the dining room, the piano tuner working at the Stein ways -- one in the long central living room, the other in my father's studio at the lower end of the house. Food deliveries were frequent and my mother was driven by the chauffeur to the hairdresser.
'In the afternoon she started cooking with the help of the gardener's wife. I believe the menu was as follows:
Hot mushroom and cream pie
Cooled roast stuffed turkey
'The butler arrived around five, by which time my mother was getting a little hysterical. My father arrived from his office and started cleaning up the kitchen or straightening the magazines in the library (a hexagonal room at the end of the living room). By seven my mother was wild and rushed upstairs to 'get dressed' before the guests arrived. She then returned to the kitchen and threw off her apron only when the doorbell rang. Then she put on her 'hostess hat' and became the perfect lady.
'Sherry and cheese straws were served in the living room and library by Dario, the butler, and Jackson, the gardener/waiter, dressed in black tuxedos. Then came the stand-up buffet dinner served in the dining room (also a hexagonal room, at the opposite end of the living room), becoming a movable feast throughout the three rooms. My mother circulated, attempting to move people around so nobody got 'stuck.' I ate lots and escaped and reappeared as the mood struck me. Often my escapes were times when André would find me, probably to escape too.
'After the dessert and during the coffee came the performance, which was in the living room with people lounging on the damask couches and easy chairs, or sitting in the large 18th-century dining chairs. Some of us chose the floor. The paintings -- 17th-century Dutch masters -- oversaw the event: a beautiful 'Saskia' of Rembrandt in the library smiling wryly and the Rubens 'Satyr' laughing cynically at those on the couch. Over the piano hung a classic traverso, skull, and broken glass, 'Sic Transit Gloria Mundi,' by Oudry.
'The piano was wonderful, the acoustics a little dry, but the audience well enough lubricated not to notice. After the performance and applause came the coffee and cognac, after which the crowd dispersed, leaving a core of people interested in discussing the performance and nibbling the leftovers -- and naturally this was when the people were most relaxed.
'My mother was always happy when an event was over. My father would finish any cleaning left undone. Then off to bed.'
The Inventions were a supreme success, but like so many of André's compositions, this one, too, was put aside and almost forgotten. On June 7, 1968, André performed the Inventions on BBC, radio 3 (classical music station); it was repeated on July 22, 1971. Pianist John Ogdon, a great supporter of André, heard both the 1968 and 1971 BBC broadcasts. At the time, Ogdon was associated with the music publisher, Novello, and was selecting contemporary piano compositions for publication. Ogdon contacted André regarding the Inventions, and by 1975 they had been published by Novello as André's Opus 2.
The music publisher Josef Weinberger had published André's Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, Opus I, in 1969. Weinberger may have been interested in publishing the Inventions, but André never pushed for publication of his music, never promoted performances, and warned Weinberger that neither of them would ever make a penny on his compositions. Gerald Kingsley, executive director at Josef Weinberger, remembers André:
'André never tried to be in vogue. He had no such pretenses. He was a true musician for other musicians. He was not a public musician. He never wanted to be a big composer, or famous; he just wanted to compose and hoped that someone would be interested in playing his compositions. André didn't push his music, wasn't the slightest bit commercial and never played the courting game.
'André could change his demeanor to suit the occasion. He could appear as one wanted him to appear by using his frightening intellect. He was intense about everything, and nothing was done lightly or slapdash. When he had an opinion, it was backed up with facts and justifications where everything got fantastic consideration and careful thought.
'His piano playing was not always highly technical, but rather emotional where the music had to speak. In any case, he played to make a living, which maybe he would have rather done through composition. He lived to compose, not to play the piano.'
When André was touring Sweden in March, April, 1962, he spent much of his time composing Invention No.3 instead of practicing. He wrote back to Zamira Fou:
'Last night I played a perfectly shocking Chopin recital and got a bunch of furious notices. They now expect such a lot from me and they are sorely disappointed. Well, it's a consolation to see that, in this country at least, the critics keep their ears open. It adds value to their good reviews.'
The 'Inventions' deserve a place in the piano solo repertory and now benefit from a top-notch recording by Colin Stone on Merlin Records, MRFD 20033.