Vladimir Ashkenazy is without doubt one of the most pre-eminent figures of today. He was born in Gorky (now Nizhny Novgorod) in 1937, and entered the Central Music School in Moscow at the age of eight. After graduating from the Moscow Conservatory, he quickly won several major competition prizes and built a career as one of the foremost pianists of the modern age, with concert performances and recordings which have for 50 years kept him in the limelight as a solo and concerto performer. His extensive repertoire ranges from Bach to the modern era and has received Grammy awards on more than one occasion for his superlative recordings for Decca.
Over the last 25 years or so he has concentrated primarily on conducting, achieving an equal reputation for his work with orchestras around the world. He was chief conductor with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester from 1988 to 1996, and with the Czech Philharmonic from 1998 to 2003, from where he became Music Director of the NHK Symphony in Tokyo and from 2009 to 2013 was Principal Conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
At the same time, he has maintained a close relationship with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, with which he appears not only in the UK each season but also on the orchestra's extensive tours. He was appointed Conductor Laureate of the Philharmonia in 2000 and also has ongoing relationships with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra, with both of which he previously held positions; he is also Music Director of the European Union Youth Orchestra.
Ashkenazy married the Icelandic pianist Þórunn (Dódý) Jóhannsdóttir and he became an Icelandic citizen in 1972. In 1978 the couple and their family moved to Switzerland where they now reside.