Hershey Felder, Our Great Tchaikovsky, The Other Palace, Victoria, London

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Hershey Felder has spent the last two decades recreating, on stage, the lives of great composers, while playing their music to highlight salient moments from those lives. Tchaikovsky is the sixth in this series. The genre is part biography, part piano recital.

The stage is set to resemble a room in his dacha in Klin, with rugs, cabinets and a baby grand piano. There is a large portrait over a writing table, whose likeness changes to whoever he is speaking about. The backdrop to the set also has illustrations which change to reflect different periods of his life.

Felder begins the show by coming on to the stage with a letter he has received from the Russian Government inviting him to bring his story of the life their greatest composer to be performed in his home country. He asks the audience whether he should do this.  This is a rhetorical question, as the difference between his account of Tchaikovsky’s life and the official Russian version is vast, and it seems unlikely that Hershey Felder’s telling of events would prove popular there.

Tchaikovsky’s story is told by picking out individual snippets of his life, mostly in chronological order, and combining them with music that he was writing or performing at the time. The effect is like an entertaining lesson combined with a piano recitation by an inventive and musically talented professor; imagine one of the best university lectures that you have attended and you won’t be far wrong.

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Hershey Felder has chosen which events to recreate, so we are given the narrative from his point of view, and he makes us aware that others may look upon his life differently. For me, who liked Tchaikovsky’s music, but who knew hardly anything about his life, it was a perfect combination. I was given an insight into the man while listening to an accomplished pianist playing his greatest hits.review

5 thoughts on “Hershey Felder, Our Great Tchaikovsky, The Other Palace, Victoria, London”

  1. Over the past couple of decades, this genre of musical-biography on stage has become popular in the USA too. We have seen productions on jazz performers (Ella Fitzgerald, Ma Ramey, Billie Holiday) to rock-stars (Janis Joplin). Some of these follow the pattern you described, with actor weaving between retelling of life events and musical influences, to re-creations of a specific performance event.
    The production which you write about might be a useful method of educating the USA audience to classical composers/musicians, who tends to have a niche audience here, compared to jazz and pop musicians, who’s songs fit into the 3 – 4 minute radio (now streaming) attention span. – Oscar

  2. I do enjoy the music of Tchaikovsky, introduced to me by my father many years ago. I too confess to not knowing a great deal about the man. This would have been fascinating.

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