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A renowned pianist and conductor of contemporary times, Vladimir Ashkenazy is a Russian-born citizen of Iceland. The son of the Jewish composer and pianist, David Ashkenazi, and Russian Orthodox actress Yevstolia Grigorievna, who also played the violin, Vladimir was a child prodigy who began playing the piano at age six and was accepted at the Central Music School at age eight. He won several international piano competitions as a young man, but as a student in Soviet Russia, he was asked to "inform" on others. Refusing to do so and ignoring other pressures upon him, Ashkenazy married Icelandic Þórunn Jóhannsdóttir, who was studying music at the Moskow Conservatory. But, because passage in and out of Russia for concerts in Europe was made so difficult by the Communist regime under Khruschev for the Ashkenazy family, the couple moved back to Iceland and Ashkenazy later became a citizen.
During the middle of his career as a pianist, Ashkenazy also turned to conducting, becoming the principal conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Czech Philharmonic and Sydney Symphony Orchestra; later he was given the honor of being conductor laureat for the Philharmonia Ochestra and the Iceland Symphonic Orchestra and other orchestras.
Vladimir Ashkenazy has had many accomplishments in his lifetime. In addition to the piano competitions won in his youth, he has received five Grammy Awards:
- 1974 - Best Instrumental Soloist Performance
- 1979, 1982,1988 - Best Chamber Music Performance
- 1986,2000 - Best Instrumental Soloist Performance
Maestro Ashkenazy is currently the president of the Rachmaninoff Society [Sergei Rachmaninoff was one of the finest pianists of his day].
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