International artist management Harrison Parrott has announced that conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy, one of classical music’s most loved and respected figures, has retired from public performances.

Vladimir Ashkenazy. Photograph © Keith Saunders

Now 82, the Russian-born maestro – who first came to prominence at the 1955 Chopin Festival in Warsaw – has had a high-flying 70-year international career as a piano soloist and conductor. Represented by Decca since 1963, he has won a remarkable seven Grammy Awards including one in 2000 for his recording of Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues.

Ashkenazy first came to Australia as a pianist in 1969 and subsequently forged a close relationship with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Joining the international musical community in celebrating his career and his important contribution to classical music, Sydney Symphony Orchestra CEO Emma Dunch said, “Vladimir Ashkenazy is a treasured member of our Sydney Symphony family.”

“He first appeared with us as a solo pianist in the Sydney Town Hall in 1969, and last season he accepted the title of Conductor Laureate in recognition of his 50-year association with the Sydney Symphony.”

“We celebrate and salute his extraordinary musical gifts and the artistic leadership that brought our Orchestra to new heights of international recognition, particularly during his tenure as Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor from 2009 to 2013.”

“All Sydneysiders will miss his shining presence on our podium, but we wish him, his wife Dodi, and all their family the very best as they move into this next, quieter stage of life.”

In taking up the position of SSO’s Conductor Laureate in 2019, Ashkenazy launched a three-year program called Vladimir Ashkenazy Masterworks and, as part of the 2020 season, was to have conducted the Northern Lights Festival in May. The SSO said today that the performances will go ahead with a guest conductor to be announced.

Famous for wearing a white turtleneck at the podium and piano, instead of the standard shirt and tie, Ashkenazy also had a strong bond with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London where he became Conductor Laureate in 2000. He was also Conductor Laureate at the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Conductor Laureate at the NHK Orchestra in Tokyo, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana. Other posts during his long, stellar career included Music Director of the European Union Youth Orchestra and Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.

In announcing the maestro’s retirement, Jasper Parrott from Harrison Parrot said: “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.”