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 (nee Plotnova) was daughter of a chorus master in the Russian Orthodox church. He first came to prominence in the 1955 Chopin Festival in Warsaw and after winning the 1956 Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels. He established himself as one of the premier pianists of the 20th century before expanding his musical interests to include conducting.
A regular visitor to Sydney, Vladimir Ashkenazy first came to Australia, as a pianist, in 1969. Since then he has conducted the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in subscription concerts and composer festivals. He was the orchestra’s Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor from 2009 to 2013. Highlights of his tenure were the Mahler Odyssey, a concert performance of Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades and several international tours.
In 2018 the Sydney Symphony was able to announce that Vladimir Ashkenazy had accepted the position of Conductor Laureate and launched Vladimir Ashkenazy’s Masterworks, a three-year artistic project starting in 2019.
Vladimir Ashkenazy’s associations with other orchestras include the Philharmonia Orchestra (London), which made him their Conductor Laureate in 2000. He is also Conductor Laureate of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and of the NHK Orchestra, Tokyo, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana. Previous posts included Music Director of the European Union Youth Orchestra and Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. He maintains strong links with the Cleveland Orchestra and Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (where he held titled positions).
Ashkenazy maintains his devotion to the piano, these days mostly in the recording studio. His discography also records his work as a conductor, including direction of Rachmaninoff’s orchestral music. Milestone recordings include 50 Years on Decca – a box-set celebrating his long-standing relationship with the label.
Beyond performing and conducting Ashkenazy has been involved in many TV projects, inspired by a vision of music maintaining a presence in the mainstream media and reaching as wide an audience as possible.