It didn’t take much to persuade legendary pianist Emanuel Ax to come and play Mozart with the SSO. But the fact that his preparatory period would coincide with the Australian Open didn’t hurt.
Vladimir Ashkenazy speaks about a lifetime travelling cheek by jowl with the music of the great Russian composer. The year 1937 was a tumultuous one for artists in the Soviet Union, already groaning under the yoke of Stalin’s ruthless brand of Communism. That November saw the first performance of Dmitri Shostakovich’s much-anticipated response to official condemnation in his Fifth Symphony, given in Leningrad under the baton of Yevgeny Mravinsky. Meanwhile, that July in Soviet Gorky (now Russian Nizhny Novgorod), a seemingly less momentous event had occurred: Vladimir Davidovich Ashkenazy was born to pianist and composer David Ashkenazy and his wife, the actress Yevstolia Grigorievna. Two events, on the face of it unconnected, and yet the music of Shostakovich would prove crucial to Vladimir Ashkenazy’s international career as a concert pianist and especially as a conductor, while Shostakovich will be his composer-of-choice when the Maestro celebrates his 80th birthday year with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra this November. Vladimir Ashkenazy. Photo © Keith Saunders Not that Ashkenazy, who turned 80 on July 6, shows any sign of slowing down. Decca’s longest serving artist, he still gives around 100 concerts a year and has won a remarkable seven Grammy Awards – including in