Vladimir Ashkenazy: Don’t go for the career

The pianist and conductor is Zsolt Bognar’s latest guest in Living the Classical Life.

He talks about Sviatoslav Richter, the Soviet system, playing football, fame and wealth, and the human soul.

‘Don’t go for the career,’ he advises. ‘Just go for the music you are playing.’


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  • But what a career he has had……….!! I still love to listen his piano recordings. Such wonderful touch and clarity. Some of his Beethoven concerto and Rachmaninov concerto recordings were exquisite.

  • “Don’t go for the career?” If he had followed his own advise, he couldn’t have bought his penthouse in Hawaii, his mansions in Greece, Switzerland, the Caribbean…

    • He DID follow his own advice, whose point I believe you either missed or ignore, Gnome. I don’t recall hearing a single measure of VA’s playing, whether live or recorded, that didn’t seem to spring from a deep and primary commitment to the music. As he is careful to point out, though, this isn’t necessarily incompatible with financial success – in fact, they are usually related to some extent. VA’s good fortune has followed, more than anything else, from his extraordinary musical gifts and what he has made of them through unrelenting and largely selfless effort.

    • My father never went for career; if anything, “career” always went for him. He was sent by the Soviet system to the three competitions he won prizes in (he tried to get out of having to participate in the 1962 Tchaikovsky Competition, but was coerced into it), and he never once took steps to further his career; unless trying to play your best is considered as trying to do so. He was invited to perform all around the world, he was asked to record, he was invited to conduct etc. but he always went, and always goes, for the music. He never talks about where, or with whom, he has played (unless specifically asked), but he will always talk about what he has played. I would advise you to reconsider your comment. My father has followed his own advice! 😉

      • Your father’s legacy as a pianist and as a conductor will live on as long as people have a taste in classical music. His Respighi recordings with the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest Holland are fantastic and inspired. Not only does he look a little like Leonard Bernstein, he also did go where Lenny didn’t!

      • Would you kindly tell me how to write Mr. Ashkenazy? I know that this is a pipe dream, but I thought I’d ask. How fortunate you are to have Mr. Ashkenazy for your father. Thank you!

  • My favorite pianist. Best Chopin Nocturnes and Preludes, Balades. His tempo and rubato on Balade #1is amazing!. Only Antonio Guedes Barbosa surpassed the Scherzos.

    Wonderful Mozart piano concertos and sonatas recordings. I wish he had recorded all sonatas.

    His Bethoveen sonatas is neck to neck with Schiff, Pollini and Brendel. All great performers. I like the piano concertos with Solti a lot, especially #4. The same as his recordings with Perlman and Harell.

    I also like his Schuman. He was a great Schuman interpreter.

    Last but not least, he made Rachmaninov sound lyrical as nobody else.

    Not to mention his Ravel, Cesar Franck.

    I never saw him playing. I saw him conducting. I understand his fight with arthritis, but I still hope to see him playing one day.

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