20. January 2020

Vladimir Ashkenazy retires from conducting

Vladimir Ashkenazy, the Iceland Symphony's Conductor Laureate, has announced that he is retiring from conducting. Ashkenazy has made an invaluable contribution to Icelandic musical life, as a pianist, conductor, and organizer. The orchestra extends its deepest thanks to Ashkenazy for a unique and inspiring collaboration that reaches back more than half a century.

Ashkenazy first performed with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra in 1964, when he played Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto for the first time in Iceland. His debut as conductor with the orchestra was in 1971, with Daniel Barenboim as soloist. He assumed the position of Conductor Laureate with the orchestra in 2002 and has conducted it regularly ever since. Ashkenazy was a leading advocate for a first-rate concert hall to be built in Iceland, and served as artistic advisor during the construction of Harpa Concert Hall.

Ashkenazy conducted the Iceland Symphony at the opening concert of Harpa in 2011.

Read the full announcement, written by Ashkenazy's agent Jasper Parrott, regarding his retirement:

“Vladimir Ashkenazy, conductor, pianist, musician, artist and humanist has decided that the time has come for him to retire from public performances and to do so with immediate effect.

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.

His music making has been at the heart of the concert seasons of the greatest halls and festivals around the world. However, he has always believed that music is a gift of spiritual enlightenment for everyone, and he has throughout his 70 year career never neglected smaller places including tiny islands and remote communities.

I count it as one of the greatest blessings of my life that I was given the privilege of working for and with him when I was just 21, and his extraordinary qualities as an artist and person combined with a character and personality of such profound modesty and generosity have been an inspiration and influence which remain as important to me today as it was 54 years ago.

We at HarrisonParrott in our 50th anniversary year have been proud to celebrate his life‘s work and his role as the father of our firm and his influence on how we all think of the values we try to uphold in our work, as well as in the duties and responsibilities we undertake, has been profound.

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.”