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Reported on Playbillarts.com

Vladimir Ashkenazy Says He Is Giving Up Piano

By Vivien Schweitzer
April 30, 2007

Vladimir Ashkenazy has decided to give up playing the piano in public, according to a recent article in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

He told the paper that he didn't want to discuss details, but that he some "physical problems." He did, however, show his extended hands to the Corriere journalist, who noted that three fingers were misshapen by arthritis.

Ashkenazy last played in public about a year ago; his hands apparently didn't cause him pain at the time, but he wasn't fully satisfied with his performance, according to the article, and decided to give up public concerts several months ago. He does plan to continue recording, however, pointing out that in the studio, he can stop and start if necessary and so repair any mistakes. (He mentioned among his plans a disc with his clarinetist son and a solo program of Sibelius.)

Asked if he had any regrets about his piano career, Ashkenazy told Corriere that he was sorry he could never play Liszt’s Sonata in B minor, because of his small fingers.

His pianistic career may be waning, but Ashkenazy's conducting career has been flourishing: the Sydney Symphony Orchestra recently appointed him their Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor for a three-year term beginning in January 2009.

Born in the old Soviet Union and a longtime citizen of Iceland, Ashkenazy won the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels (1956) and the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow (1962). He won five Grammy Awards for solo and chamber music recordings between the years 1979 and 2000.

He took up conducting seriously in the 1980s and was appointed chief conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1987, serving there until 1994. He has also been principal conductor of the Deutsches Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin (1989-99) and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra (1996-2003). Since 2000 he has been music director of the European Union Youth Orchestra, and this summer he completes a three-year term as music director of the NHK Symphony, Japan's leading orchestra.

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Ashkenazy's brilliant recording of the Etudes spurred my piano study.

growing older is so very sad


accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

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Ashkenazy (along w/Richter and Gilels) were my original inspiration when I decided to study seriously. That was over 40 years ago, so he's had a wonderful carreer. Thank goodness he'll still be in the studio.

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Brilliant pianist. How sad...

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I'm just relieved he's not dead! (after reading the tag line)....
yes, that is a shame. He has been moving more towards conducting in the last years, perhaps anticipating that this was going to happen. At least he will still record and teach. He's a wonderful musician.

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Right, Apple, I am now listening to his 1960 Melodiya Op 25, No 3 recording -- magnificent. This is really sad news.

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Sad news, indeed. But I think he made a very smart choice; people will always remember the great pianist he was.

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Yes, the 1960 recording of the etudes is wonderful.


“There are only two important things which I took with me on my way to America, It´s been my wife Natalja and my precious Blüthner.” – Sergei Rachmaninov

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Quote
Originally posted by LisztAddict:
Sad news, indeed [...] people will always remember the great pianist he was.
Indeed. I heard him several times live when I was a lad. An underrated conductor: his set of the Rachmaninov symphonies is unmatched.

But this bit about regretting not playing the Liszt Sonata? Am I reading that right? Ashkenazy has never liked Liszt (early recording of Mephisto #1 and TE's notwithstanding) and didn't Decca try for years to get A to record the Liszt Concertos? When did that change?


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Too bad, but he certainly had an outstanding career as a pianist - he has nothing to be ashamed of by retiring. There's no rule that says a pianist has to play right up until he dies - if now's the right time for him to call it quits, I give him credit for having the guts to stop.

And yeah, reading the thread title I though he had died - glad he's still with us...


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I don't think Ashkenazy ever said he didn't like Liszt -- more than once he has said that his span has prevented him from playing how he would like to have played.

One of my first recordings is Ashkenzy's recordings of the Rachmaninoff 2nd Concerto and Rhapsody on a theme of Paginini on Decca (LSO/Previn conducting). The second movement of the concerto is without doubt one of the most moving on record.

I can't help feeling his conducting has been underrated. I heard him conduct Mahler's 5th (from memory) with the CBSO about 10 years ago and it was spellbinding from start to finish. So it's great news that he's going to be coming to Sydney (albeit probably only a few times a year) from 2009. I'll certainly make the effort to get down to see him.

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It was a shame that no one ever introduced the Steinbuhler 7/8 size keyboard to Ashkenzy. I believe he would still be playing today....


...The ultimate joy in music is the joy of playing the piano...
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I'm also sorry to hear about Ashkenazi. He was one of my favorites. I often played his recording of Chopin's etudes which is excellent. So many pianists bang their way through these gems without delivering real music. He may have small hands but my reasonably large hands will never match his accomplishments. Of course, that's also because I'm just an occasional amateur and was not a conservatory kid.
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That's so sad. His interpretation of Chopin is one of the best. Arthritis is a horrible thing.

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I saw Ashkenazy and have always admired him. I'm deeply sorry to hear his reasons for retirement. But he has achieved so much in his career to date that he doesn't need to perform. However, I pray that somehow he will make a come-back. I don't like any pianist to retire but I realise that we all must take into account the physical toll of such a life. He's so young relatively compared to Horowitz. And Horowitz, too made a comeback. But conducting? hWell, e always could conduct the Mozart sonatas from the piano anyway, couldn't he, as well as performing them simultaneously. What a great lesson for the piano concertists - to know every aspect of the score both orchestral and solo!


It don't mean a ting if it don't have dat swing

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