On 30 November 2015, some four years after Lewis Owens first introduced us to friends of André Tchaikowsky with a view to making a documentary about this “wonderful awful person”, we found ourselves at The Warsaw Philharmonic for the premiere of our documentary Rebel of the Keys.

After such a lengthy, often inspiring, certainly fascinating and sometimes arduous journey making the film, it was not until we walked into the main concert hall with the big screen in place and hundreds of chairs waiting to be occupied, that it began to sink in that we were finally at its premiere.

Warsaw Philharmonic Prior To The Screening of Rebel of the Keys

Before the screening Maciej Gryzbowski played André Tchaikowsky’s Piano Sonata and The Inventions. Then, after a short Q&A on stage to introduce the film, the lights went down and we held our breath in anticipation of the audience reaction. It was only when the first laugh came – André was a colourful character – that we were able to relax and enjoy the moment.

andre warsaw screening
Rebel of the Keys Screening at The Warsaw Philharmonic

Thank you to everyone who afterwards shared their appreciation of the film with us and to the journalist, Lucie Pierron, who wrote the first review of the film with which she concluded it was “a voir”.

Click here to read the review in its original French

Here is a transcript of the review translated into English:

This article was originally published on Bachtrak on 1 December 2015.

An Evening To Discover André Tchaikowsky At The Warsaw Philharmonic

by Lucie Perron

The second part was dedicated to the documentary Rebel of the Keys directed by Mark Charles. The 60 minute version was screened, while the original is 90 minutes in length. The project that began four years ago was shown for the first time to the public in the legendary concert hall of the Warsaw Philharmonic. The director spoke of the challenges in making this film: there is very little archive footage of this composer/pianist and it was necessary to make some quite draconian decisions as to which anecdotes to include in the film.

The result is nevertheless a great success and immerses us intimately into the life of the composer for an hour. The testimonies are well chosen and hit the mark. The film shows us a composer and pianist with a complex character. A capricious man, he is described by one of his friends as a “wonderful and awful person”, but nevertheless a true musical genius who had “more in him than he gave us, but who wasn’t that interested in doing it”. A genius nevertheless.

The strength of this documentary is that it presents an authentic a portrait as possible. The narrator does not resort to melodrama when she describes André’s painful childhood where escaped from The Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 with his grandmother. His mother perished at Treblinka in the same year.  The accounts from people close to him explore the different aspects of this man who was tortured all his life by the humiliation he lived through during his childhood. And so we are presented with a portrait of a man who is a genius pianist and composer, a homosexual, a manipulative and impulsive man who is capable of picking up on and then exploiting a person’s weaknesses.  He is nevertheless a great artist who continued to compose his only opera right up to his death, refusing morphine injections in order to remain lucid enough to be able to finish his work.

André’s dying wish was to give his body to science and his skull to The Royal Shakespeare Company. The documentary finishes with the narrator and musicologist discovering André’s skull nearly 10 years after beginning research on this curious character. A very emotional moment for the audience who applauded the work of these André Tchaikowsky enthusiasts. A film worth watching.