Vladimir Ashkenazy: Don’t go for the career

Vladimir Ashkenazy: Don’t go for the career


norman lebrecht

November 19, 2018

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.’



  • Andy says:

    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.

  • Gnomenreigen says:

    “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…

    • nimitta says:

      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.

    • Rob says:

      He deserves some luxury. Learning those concertos is hard work, physically & mentally.

    • Vovka Ashkenazy says:

      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! 😉

      • JoBe says:

        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!

      • His contributions to music are remarkable, and you know how I feel about your dad. He is a role model in many ways. Love to you and the family for this holiday season, dear friend.

      • M2N2K says:

        Don’t hold your breath: Mr. Envy and Miss Jealousy are not usually open-minded enough to any kind of reconsidering.

      • Barry D. Hargan says:

        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!

  • John Rook says:

    Wise words as ever from this greatest of men and musicians.

  • Rob says:

    He loves his John Smedley knitwear!

  • Melissa Liu says:

    Mo. Ashkenazy just completed a tour in Japan, conducting the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and with pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii: 12 concerts in12 venues, 11 cities in a little over 2 weeks. This, at age 81. Incredible.

  • Quintus Beckmesser says:

    What a charming, modest and interesting man.

  • Roberto says:

    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.

  • Frank Ho says:

    Lovely and inspirational interview! Ashkenazy seems like a sincere, wonderful person.

  • Edward Janus says:

    Mr Ashkenazy’s complete Mozart concertos are a revelation

  • doremi says:

    Many thanks for this wonderful sincere interview.
    At last a pianist who reckons he learned from S.RICHTER