Vladimir Ashkenazy's father was a professional pianist, but he never taught his son. It was his mother who found Ashkenazy his first teacher at age six. His father was a non-observant Russian Jew, and his mother was a Russian of Eastern Orthodox faith. After his debut in Moscow at the tender age of eight, Ashkenazy was subsequently put on track for a musical career and enrolled in Moscow's Central Music School. His regular piano teacher there was Anaida Sumbatian. In 1955 he entered the Moscow Conservatory, studying with the great pianist Lev Oborin. In the same year he won second prize in the Fifth Warsaw International Chopin Competition. The following year he won the Gold Medal in the Brussels Queen Elizabeth International piano competition and then toured the United States in 1958. In 1961 he married an Icelandic pianist who was studying in Moscow, Sofia Johannsdottir. He won first prize in the Second Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1962, sharing that honor with British pianist John Ogden. In 1963 Ashkenazy and his wife, travelling on their Soviet passports, went to London, where he made his debut in an orchestral concert at Festival Hall, a great success. He stayed on in England and centered his life and career there, beginning a long association with England's Decca (London) records. He quickly made a reputation as one of the most brilliant pianists in the Russian tradition. In 1971 he moved with his family to Reykjavik, where he was awarded Iceland's Order of the Falcon. In 1972 he took Icelandic citizenship and later established a home base in Switzerland. He took up the conductor's baton in the 1970s and steadily increased his activity in that sphere, becoming principal guest conductor or music director of such ensembles as the Cleveland Orchestra (1987), and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra (1989). With the end of the Soviet Union, he made triumphant return concerts in Russia. He is conductor laureate of the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic, Japan's NHK Symphony Orchestra, and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. He continues as music director of the European Union Youth Orchestra, and took up the new position of principal conductor and artistic adviser to the Sydney Symphony in 2009, with which he'd already made several recordings. His piano playing is bright and incisive, with clear articulation and intellectual depth that does not interfere with the production of warm feeling. He has exceptional control over tone color. Although he possesses a considerable degree of sheer strength, his excellent playing in delicate passages creates the dominant impression. His repertoire is wide-ranging, and he has recorded most of it, from Haydn to the works of the first half of the 20th century. He has made particularly valuable recordings of the complete piano works of Chopin, Rachmaninov, and Scriabin. Other excellent series include music of Brahms, Liszt, and the complete Prokofiev concertos. As a conductor, he is highly effective in Russian music, particularly in Prokofiev, and has made the leading recording of that composer's Romeo and Juliet. He has made his own orchestration of Musorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and recorded the work in that highly effective version, in Gortchakov's orchestration, and in its original form as a piano solo. He remains active in both careers, although in 2007 he decided keep his piano performances more to the studio in order to give listeners the best he could offer as age starts to take its toll.
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Classical - Released November 14, 2011 | Decca
Booklet Distinctions Pianiste Maestro - Choc de Classica
Classical - Released January 1, 1971 | Universal Music
Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Classical - Released January 1, 1995 | Decca
Even though Vladimir Ashkenazy is most often celebrated for his brilliantly virtuosic interpretations of Romantic repertoire, his skills in playing works of the Classical era are just as worthy, as proved by this 10-disc set from London of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's piano concertos. These performances span a period from 1966 to 1988, capturing a youthful and vigorous Ashkenazy playing and conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra and the English Chamber Orchestra from the keyboard, in approved Mozartian fashion. All of the keyboard concertos are here, including the official 27 concertos for piano and orchestra, the Concerto for two pianos in E flat major, K. 365, the Concerto for three pianos in F major, K. 242, as well as the two Rondos K. 382 and K. 386. Ashkenazy's elegant playing has been highly praised by critics and placed on a level with his esteemed contemporaries Murray Perahia, Daniel Barenboim, and Alfred Brendel, all past masters of Mozart's primary medium of expression. Because these recordings are either analog or digital, according to their dates, there are some noticeable differences in the quality of sound, but London has taken pains to master all the recordings to even out the volume levels and to adjust the tone of the performances.
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