Rhinegold Photo credit: Keith Saunders

Josephine Miles

Vladimir Ashkenazy retires

12:51, 21st January 2020

Vladimir Ashkenazy, the 82-year-old Russian pianist and conductor, has announced his retirement with immediate effect

The announcement was made by Ashkenazy’s long-time manager, Jasper Parrott, on Friday 17 January. In a news post on the management agency’s website, Parrott wrote that Ashkenazy ‘has decided that the time has come for him to retire from public performances and to do so with immediate effect’.

Ashkenazy first gained international recognition in 1955 when he won second prize at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw. The following year he won the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition, and in 1962 shared first prize in the Tchaikovsky Competition with John Ogdon.

Ashkenazy performing at the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1962 (Photo credit: Tully Potter Collection)

In 1963 he began his relationship with Decca, making such notable recordings as the complete piano concertos of Rachmaninov and Prokofiev, conducted by André Previn, and the Beethoven violin sonatas with Itzhak Perlman. He won Gramophone awards for his recordings of the complete songs of Sibelius with Tom Krause and Elisabeth Söderström (1985) and an album of Russian Songs, again with Söderström (1979).

From the mid-1980s, Ashkenazy established a parallel career as a conductor. He was principal conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from 1987 to 1994, and of the Czech Philharmonic from 1998 to 2003. He was appointed conductor laureate of the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, and music director of the European Union Youth Orchestra. From 2009 to 2013 he served as chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Parrott, who was 21 when he first worked with Ashkenazy, wrote: ‘For his countless admirers around the planet, so many of whom have never known a world in which his incomparable artistry and his ineffable dedication to the great human gift of music have not been constants in their lives, whether in performances of a vast repertoire of great music stretching from Bach to Shostakovich, or through his prodigious catalogue of recordings which have ensured that his music could always be heard everywhere without borders or limitations, this will be a sombre day.

‘So many of the musicians and orchestras with whom Vladimir Ashkenazy has made music with over the decades will surely be inexpressibly sad about his decision, but we can all take comfort in the sure knowledge that music, even if not in public performance, will continue to inhabit every hour of his life and will be shared with joy and satisfaction within his devoted family and among his friends.’

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