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Vladimir Ashkenazy (2007)Vladimir Davidovich Ashkenazy (Russian: Владимир Давидович Ашкенази, Vladimir Davidovič Aškenazi; born July 6, 1937) is a Russian conductor and pianist. He has been a citizen of Iceland, the home of his wife Þórunn, since 1972. Since 1978 , because of the many obligations of the artist in Europe, the home of the family became Meggen, near Lucerne in Switzerland. He is currently Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Early life
Ashkenazy was born in Gorky, Soviet Union (now Nizhny Novgorod, Russia) to a Jewish father, the pianist and composer David Ashkenazi and to the actress Yevstolia Grigorievna born Plotnova, daughter of a family of Russian peasants. He began playing piano at the age of six and, showing prodigious talent, was accepted at the Central Music School at age eight. A graduate of the Moscow Conservatory, he won second prize in the International Frédéric 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. As a student, like many in his time, he was harassed by KGB to become an "informer". He did not really cooperate, and despite pressures from the authorities, married his foreign-born wife Þórunn Sofia Johannisdottir in 1961. In order to marry Vladimir, his wife, who studied piano in the Conservatory of Moscow, was forced to give up her Icelandic citizenship and declare that she wanted to live in the USSR. After numerous bureaucratic procedures, the Soviet authorities several times agreed to allow Ashkenazy and his wife to go to the West for musical performances and for visits to this parents-in-law with their first grandson, but in 1963 Ashkenayz decided to leave the USSR permanently, establishing first in London where his wife's parents lived.

Vladimir Ashkenazy is renowned for his performances of Romantic and Russian composers. There has been a CD produced of his works named 'The Art of Ashkenazy', and a biography of Ashkenazy, 'Beyond Frontiers', has been published.

He has recorded Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier; the complete 24 Preludes and Fugues of Shostakovich; the complete sonatas by Beethoven and Scriabin; the complete works for piano by Rachmaninoff, Chopin and Schumann; and seven of Liszt's 12 Transcendental Études. He has also recorded the piano concertos of Mozart (conducting from the keyboard with the Philharmonia Orchestra); Beethoven (with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Sir Georg Solti; with Zubin Mehta and the Vienna Philharmonic; and conducting from the piano with the Cleveland Orchestra); Bartók (with Solti and the London Philharmonic Orchestra); Prokofiev (with André Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra); and Rachmaninoff (with André Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra, and with Bernard Haitink and the Concertgebouw Orchestra). He has also performed and recorded chamber music.

Midway through his pianistic career, Ashkenazy branched into conducting. He has particularly been praised for his recordings of orchestral works by Sibelius, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Scriabin, Richard Strauss and Stravinsky.

He was the principal conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from 1987 to 1994, and was principal conductor of the Czech Philharmonic from 1998 to 2003. He became musical director of the NHK Symphony Orchestra in 2004.

Besides these positions, Ashkenazy is conductor laureate of the Philharmonia, conductor laureate of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, and music director of the European Union Youth Orchestra, with which he performs regularly.

Ashkenazy has also appeared in several Christopher Nupen music films, conducting extracts from the composer profiled, including Ottorino Respighi and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and performing at the piano.

He succeeded Gianluigi Gelmetti as the chief conductor and artistic director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in January 2009.

He has also made his own orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky's piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition (1982).

Ashkenazy is also known for his unique habits in solo piano performance: spurning coat and tie in favor of a white turtleneck and black suit; running (not walking) on stage to the piano; and running off stage after finishing and taking his bow.

Awards and recognitions
1955 International Frédéric Chopin Piano Competition, Warsaw (Second prize)[6]
1956 Queen Elisabeth Music Competition for piano, Brussels
1962 International Tchaikovsky Competition, Moscow
2000 Hanno R. Ellenbogen Citizenship Award, with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducting corps
Current president of the Rachmaninoff Society.
Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance (with orchestra)
1974 Beethoven: The Piano Concertos (Vladimir Ashkenazy, Sir Georg Solti & Chicago Symphony Orchestra)
Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance
1979 Beethoven: Sonatas for Violin and Piano (Itzhak Perlman & Vladimir Ashkenazy)
1982 Tchaikovsky: Piano Trio in A minor (Vladimir Ashkenazy, Itzhak Perlman, Lynn Harrell)
1988 Beethoven: The Complete Piano Trios (Vladimir Ashkenazy, Itzhak Perlman, Lynn Harrell)
Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance
1986 Ravel: Gaspard de la nuit; Pavane pour une infante défunte; Valses nobles et sentimentales
2000 Shostakovich: 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87

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