VLADIMIR ASHKENAZY

EUYO Music Director

 

One of the few artists to have combined a successful career as a pianist and conductor, Russian born Vladimir Ashkenazy inherited his musical gift from both sides of his family: his father David Ashkenazy was a professional light music pianist and his mother Evstolia (née Plotnova) was daughter of a chorus master in the Russian Orthodox church. Ashkenazy first came to prominence on the world stage in the 1955 Chopin Competition in Warsaw and as first prize winner of the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels in 1956; since then he has built an extraordinary career, not only as one of the most outstanding pianists of the 20th century, but as an artist whose creative life encompasses a vast range of activities and continues to offer inspiration to music-lovers across the world.

 

Conducting has formed the larger part of Ashkenazy’s activities for the past 20 years. He continues his longstanding relationship with the Philharmonia Orchestra of which he was appointed Conductor Laureate in ­­2000. In addition to his performances with the orchestra in London and around the UK each season, he tours with them worldwide and has developed landmark projects such as ‘Prokofiev and Shostakovich Under Stalin’ (a project which he also took to Cologne, New York, Vienna and Moscow) and ‘Rachmaninoff Revisited’ (which was also presented in Paris in October 2010). Earlier this year, Ashkenazy and the Philharmonia Orchestra embarked upon a European tour which included appearances in Essen, Paris, Luxembourg and Mannheim with soloists Evgeny Kissin and Vadim Repin. In September 2014, he will also lead the orchestra on an extensive tour of South America with soloists Nelson Freire and Esther Yoo.

 

Ashkenazy also holds the position of Music Director of the European Union Youth Orchestra, with whom he tours each year, and Conductor Laureate of both the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the NHK Symphony Orchestra. He has also previously held posts as Principal Conductor and Artistic Adviser to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (2009-13) with whom he collaborated on a number of significant recording projects and major international tours, Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Music Director of NHK Symphony Orchestra. He maintains strong links with a number of other major orchestras with whom he has built special relationships over the years, including The Cleveland Orchestra (of whom he was formerly Principal Guest Conductor) and Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (Chief Conductor and Music Director 1988-96), as well as making guest appearances with many other major orchestras around the world.

 

While conducting takes up a significant portion of his time each season, Ashkenazy maintains his devotion to the piano - these days mostly in the recording studio - where he continues to build his extraordinarily comprehensive recording catalogue with releases such as the 1999 Grammy award-winning Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues, Rautavaara’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (a work which he commissioned), Bach's Wohltemperierte Klavier, Rachmaninov’s Transcriptions and Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations. Spring 2013 saw the release of Ashkenazy: 50 Years on Decca’ - a box-set comprised of 50 CDs to celebrate Ashkenazy’s long standing relationship with Decca Classics. In 2014, Decca will also release a milestone collection of Ashkenazy’s vast catalogue of Rachmaninov’s piano music which will also include all of his symphonic recordings as a conductor.  

 

Beyond his performing schedule, Ashkenazy continues to be involved in some fascinating TV projects, often inspired by his passionate drive to ensure that serious music continues to have a platform in the mainstream media and is made available to as broad an audience as possible. He has collaborated extensively (both as conductor and pianist) with the outstanding director Christopher Nupen, and has been involved in programmes such as Music After Mao filmed in Shanghai in 1979, and the acclaimed Ashkenazy in Moscow programmes which marked his return to Russia in 1989; his first visit to the country of his birth since leaving the USSR in the 1960s.  More recently he has developed educational programmes with NHK TV including the 1999 Superteachers working with inner-city London school children, and in 2003-4 a documentary based around his ‘Prokofiev and Shostakovich Under Stalin’ project.