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Rebel of the Keys – Mark Charles and Anastasia Belina Johnson

Andrzej Czajkowski, 1970, photo: Clive Barda / ArenaPAL / Forum

Rebel of the Keys charts the life and times of pianist, composer and ‘enfant-terrible’ Andrzej Czajkowski, mixed with a present-day journey to the first performance of Andre’s opera on the international stage.

Anastasia Belina Johnson is a writer and opera director but above all a musicologist who has become fascinated by the life and work of Andrzej Czajkowski. She takes viewers on a present day search for composer’s story and his hitherto unknown works. It was Czajkowski’s dying wish that his opera adaptation of The Merchant of Venice would one day be staged and as this now becomes a prospect, Johnson follows the journey from first rehearsal to its world premiere in Austria.

In the Rebel of the Keys alternate three perspectives intertwine: biographic accounts mingle with music and present-day stories about recovering works of the composer whose oeuvre has been forgotten for quite a while. Anastasia Belina Johnson  not only keeps track of the process of the opera production, but follows the people close to Czajkowski.

The film comprises interviews with Fou Ts'ong (Chinese winner of the third prize at the Chopin Competition in 1955), David Zinmann (a conductor associated with many European centers of music, who conducted the famous recording of Górecki's Third Symphony), Stephan Kovachevich (outstanding pianist and privately the third husband of Marta Argerich), Halina Janowska (a writer and Czajowski’s closest friend), Vladimir Ashkenazy, and several other music legends.

Andrzej Czajkowski was a brilliant pianist, composer, and prose writer. He was so naturally gifted as a pianist that he eventually performed on the world stage with Arthur Rubinstein. Yet with great fame before him, he rebelled against what he saw as the ‘superficial and humourless elite’ of the American classical music scene, and found himself touring other parts of the world, all but exiled from his career in America.

Blessed with an extraordinary intellect, Czajkowski was regarded as a true musicians’ musician. His music also hints at his capricious character. His unconventional life and wry sense of humour made him unforgettable. The bequeathment of his skull to the Royal Shakespeare Company to be one day used as Yorick in Hamlet is just one of many extraordinary tales of Andre that will make him a talking point for generations to come.

The complexity of Andre’s music and some hitherto surprising and unknown events in his life, as well as the sight of his masterful opera on the world stage, all lead to an ending that would please this contrary but fascinating individual.

Author: Filip Lech, 27/11/2015, transl. GS

Tags: andrzej czajkowskihalina janowskaoperapolish composerpianist

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