Vladimir Ashkenazy (born 6 July 1937) is a Russian pianist and conductor. He became world famous as a pianist. During the last two decades he has become equally famous as a conductor, as well as performing and recording as a pianist.
Ashkenazy was born in Gorky, Russia. His father was an Ashkenazi Jew, his mother was Russian. Although his father was a pianist he never had lessons from him. He began playing the piano when he was six. He soon showed enormous talent and two years later went to the Central Music School in Gorki. He graduated from the Moscow Conservatory. He won second prize in the International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1955 and the first prize in the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition in Brussels in 1956. He shared the first prize in the 1962 International Tchaikovsky Competition with British pianist John Ogdon.
Vladimir Ashkenazy has had an extremely successful career as a pianist. He became famous for his playing of Romantic music and music by Russian composers. He recorded a very large amount of music including the 24 Preludes and Fugues of Dmitri Shostakovich, Alexander Scriabin's piano sonatas, Rachmaninoff's, Frédéric Chopin's and Robert Schumann's complete piano works, Beethoven's piano sonatas, and the piano concertos of Mozart (conducting from the keyboard with the Philharmonia Orchestra). He recorded concertos with many of the world's most famous orchestras. He still records and performs all over the world, often playing piano concertos and conducting from the piano keyboard.
In the late 1980s he started to become known 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 became conductor (musical director) of the NHK Symphony Orchestra in 2004. He toured with them in 2005, taking them to Vienna for their first concert in the famous concert hall called the Musikverein. In 2006 he took them to Seoul and then to the United States where they played in many cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles (Walt Disney Concert Hall), Boston and New York City (Carnegie Hall). He also played with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in Stresa (Italy) in 2010.
Ashkenazy is now also conductor laureate of the Philharmonia, conductor laureate of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, and music director of the European Union Youth Orchestra. He is often invited as a guest conductor to work with other famous orchestras.