Father and sons play music for peace

Business World, 2 March 2010

Father and sons play music for peace

WORLD-RENOWNED and much-revered pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy will be performing at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on March 11 in a concert billed Concert for a Culture for Peace. It promises to be a rare opportunity to witness his genius and artistry and offers the added bonus of watching Ashkenazy perform with his two sons, clarinetist Vovka and pianist Dmitri.

Vladimir Ashkenasy is a giant in the musical world, a Grammy Award winner who built an illustrious career as a pianist and then later as a conductor of some of the best orchestras in the world.

He is the Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra; is the Music Director of the European Union Youth Orchestra; and Conductor Laureate of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. He maintains strong links with a number of others major orchestras with whom he has built special relationships over the years. He also has a longstanding relationship with the Philarmonia Orchestra of which he was appointed Conductor Laureate in 2000. In addition to his performances with the orchestra in the UK each season, he tours with them worldwide, hand has developed landmarks projects such as Profokiev and Shostakovich Under Stalin in 2003 and Rachmaninoff Revisited in 2002 at the Lincoln Center, New York.

In an e-mail interview, Mr. Ashkenazy said that his love affair with the orchestra began in  his childhood. “I was totally fascinated by the symphony orchestra from childhood; I remember going to the Bolshoi Theatre at the age of six – I spent all the time listening to the orchestra in the pit, and not looking at the ballet on stage. That’s how it started. All my life I have identified with the symphony orchestra – I was delighted to play with an orchestra as a pianist, I played a lot of repertoire and amassed a tremendous collection of orchestral LPs, but I never thought I would conduct – so when the opportunity arose I thought it was a real fulfillment of my life. I’m very lucky.”

While conducting takes up a significant portion of his time each season, Mr. Ashkenazy continues to devote himself to the piano, these days mostly in the recording studio where he continues to build his extraordinarily comprehensive recording catalogue with releases such as the 1999 Grammy Award-winning Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues, Rautavaara’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (a work which he commissioned) and Rachmaninov Transcriptions. Most recently released are his recording of that most challenging and enriching of works, Bach’s Wohltemperierte Klavier and released in June 2007, Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations.

He says he plays no favorites among the great composers. “I don’t have favorite composers – there are so many great composers that I would be very sorry not to be associated with and I have a very wide range of affections in music. That’s why you see a very extensive range of repertoire that I’ve played, conducted and recorded. I wanted to be a part of some of the great gifts in music from Bach to Sibelius.”

Mr. Ashkenazy’s Manila engagement is part of the 3rd ASEAN event series Bridges – Dialogues Towards a Culture for Peace, facilitated by the International Peace Foundation, a nonpolitical and nonreligious organization dedicated to support peace universities as well as scientific projects and institutions dealing with research into conflict prevention and strategies for the solution of conflicts, as well as with promoting peace activities, understanding and social exchange between peoples, their cultures and traditions.

“The International Peace Foundation contacted me to ask if I’d like to participate in a special Concert for a Culture of Peace as part of their Bridges series – how could one not respond to this positively?,” Mr. Ashkenazy said. “I have played in the Philippines only once, a long time ago, for a small music society in Manila, so I’m delighted to be coming again. I love the people and atmosphere and, apart from the reason for doing this concert for such a good cause, I’m delighted to be back in this country which I like very much.”

His sons will be performing with Mr. Ashkenazy in the Bridges series. They are both accomplished musicians like their father. Dmitri has appeared at the Royal Festival Hall in London with the Royal Philharmonic, and at the Hollywood Bowl with the Deutshes Symphonie Orchester Berlin. Vovka’s debut was with the London Symphony performing Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concert. Both have performed extensively around the world.

Did he influence his sons to become musicians? “No. Never! I left it to them to decide what they wanted to do – that’s their decision. I explained everything that’s involved in a musical career, the full ranges of circumstances, and left it to them to decide what they wanted to do. My wife and I always felt that it must be their decision. We explained all the benefits and pitfalls and left them to make up their own minds.”

“I grew up with the sound of the piano being a constant element in the home environment, and so it was almost inevitable that I would want to play the piano myself. I fell in love with the piano before I knew what it was,” Vovka said in an e-mail interview along with his brother.

Dmitri added that, with both their parents being pianists, “there was music all around the family all through my childhood and youth, so both genetically and in my immediate environment, music was always a strong element of my life.”

For the two younger musicians, it will be a first in the Philippines.

“I believe music is one of the best ways to transcend the day-to-day travails of life and, indeed, conflicts. On this trip, I will also be visiting… Cambodia and the Philippines for the first time, and I very much look forward to the new experiences!,” said Dmitri.

For the CCP Concert, they will play Shummann’s Three romances, Op. 94, Lutoslawski’s Dance Preludes for Clarinet and Piano (1954); Poulenc’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 94; Schubert’s Divertimento al’Hongroise, Op. 54 (to be played on two pianos) and Ravel’s La Valse.

For detail call the CCP Music Division at 832-1125 local 1605 or the CCP Box Office at 832-1125 local 1409 and 832-3704.