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Thread: Vladimir Ashkenazy

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    Senior Member Sofronitsky's Avatar
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    Default Vladimir Ashkenazy

    This musician is legendary, and has had a prodigious career as a pianist and a conductor. I have a problem, with Ashkenazy, though. Aside from his Rachmaninoff Concerti (which I consider top notch) I have never heard him play something that amazed me. To me, it's always run of the mill brilliant playing without much personality. I've heard his Chopin Etudes, Scriabin Sonatas, Chopin Nocturnes, Rachmaninoff Preludes /sonatas etc. etc. And while I never disliked these performances, I was never really affected by them.

    I was wondering if anyone feels the same way? Maybe someone could suggest a good recording that might change my opinion, also.

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    Senior Member tdc's Avatar
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    I've thought similar things when it comes to Ashkenazy's Well-Tempered Clavier and his Chopin - they left me generally unimpressed. I had all but written him off actually until I'd listened to his Beethoven Piano Sonatas which imo he does quite well on. I guess he is perhaps rather hit and miss, though even at his worst (that I've heard) he is not too bad.

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Ashkenazy was one of the early exports from the cold war era of the USSR. To fairly judge his pianism, it is necessary to hear recordings from before he turned his focus to conducting. His technique was more than adequate, and his interpretations could move the audience. Gilels and Richter achieved greater acclaim in the West though, and then so did Berman for awhile. Ashkenazy turned his Russian School viewpoints to conducting, and his recordings of the Russian composers indicate that he made a good decision. The recordings of Rachmaninoff's orchestral works with the Concertgebouw Orchestra (recommending in a post here a few days back - thanks) are fine examples of his success. He seems to have practiced the piano often enough after changing focus, but the interpretive edge was gone.

    IMO, YMMV.
    I spent a fortune on deodorant before I realized that people don't like me anyway.

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    Senior Member Weston's Avatar
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    That very lack of personality is what I like about Ashkenazy. I listen to his Beethoven piano concertos as a kind of base line for comparing other interpretations. They may not be flashy, but neither are they distracting when I just want to hear Beethoven -- if that makes nay sense.

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    Senior Member StlukesguildOhio's Avatar
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    I agree that Ashkenazy is quite good with regard to Beethoven... and Shostakovitch's Preludes and Fugues as well. I don't know that there is any work that I would name him as the first choice for (excepting the Shostakovitch)... but that may be true of many pianists... many whom I greatly admire.

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    Senior Member Meaghan's Avatar
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    I think he's know for his Beethoven. I've heard most of his Beethoven sonata cycle and I mostly like it. Some of his interpretations do more for me than others, though. For instance: Lebewohl, excellent; Tempest (especially the middle movement)... hmm... not as I would play it (if I could play it exactly as I want).

    What I like about his Beethoven is its great clarity. You can pretty much see everything he is playing on the page; he doesn't distort things. Occasionally, this results in his playing being not expressive enough for my taste, but most of the time it is satisfying because it allows the character of the composition to come through without being masked by too much performer (if that makes any sense). It's often plenty expressive; what's nice about Ashkenzy is that he manages to make it so without being over-the-top and chessy about it.

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    He's good at walloping the keyboard, not that good when playing requires more sensitivity. That's why he made great recordings of Prokofiev but rather bad ones of Chopin and his Scriabin and Rachmaninoff if half here half there because when they get russian he feels at home but in lyrical parts influenced by Chopin (slow movement of Scriabin's PC for example) his weaknesess come out. I don't like his Beethoven PC series with Solti too. But overally I like him and some of his CDs occupy important place in my collection.

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    Senior Member joen_cph's Avatar
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    The best I´ve got are the Rach 3s, the Scriabin sonatas - and the Sibelius/decca "En Saga" in the LP-version, where, unfortunately, the CD transfer editing resulted in much less impressive sound, especially ruining the final part. Some of his early recordings, like the Chopin Etudes and Liszt Mephisto (mono) are not particularly interesting, most of his recordings are good or all-rightish if not exceedingly spectacular - with fine sound though. And the repertoire he has been doing has always been of good taste.

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    Senior Member Bix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aramis View Post
    I don't like his Beethoven PC series with Solti too. But overally I like him and some of his CDs occupy important place in my collection.
    Mine too

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    Senior Member kv466's Avatar
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    I've always thought the same...solid player, nothing very special...always a better player to his performances

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    Senior Member itywltmt's Avatar
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    I echo most of your sentiments.

    One collection you omitted so far is his Mozart concerti as pianist and conductor - I think these represent his first foray into conducting. I find them to be somewhere between good and very good.



    As for his conducting, in general, I find it to be hit and miss, but that's personal taste speaking...

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    I can only vouch for Mr Ashkenazy's Beethoven & Rachmaninov (as pianist). I think he plays them quite well, & see logic in what Aramis speaks to - he has a very vigorous and fiery style, he's probably best in these kinds of things. I have him playing the music of those two composers from 1960's-70's recordings & the man was "on fire" then, in his younger days. I am not familiar with his more recent recordings as pianist.

    BTW - Ashkenazy is currently chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orch. here in Australia. Last year he started a Mahler cycle (live performances recorded for CD) which is to conclude by the end of this year (some of those recordings have already come out). He's also championed some composers dear to his heart, esp. Prokofiev (he did a mini-festival of this composer's works with the SSO a couple of years back, this was also released on disc). I have acquaintances who recently saw him conduct part of the Mahler cycle, and they were pretty impressed. I haven't heard his efforts as a conductor, & getting some of his recordings put down here would be a good "first step." It's great to have a man of so many talents & such high calibre working here Down Under. I think he's retired from playing piano in public, is that true???...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sofronitsky View Post
    This musician is legendary, and has had a prodigious career as a pianist and a conductor. I have a problem, with Ashkenazy, though. Aside from his Rachmaninoff Concerti (which I consider top notch) I have never heard him play something that amazed me. To me, it's always run of the mill brilliant playing without much personality...Maybe someone could suggest a good recording that might change my opinion, also.
    I've got Ashkenazy's recording of two key Beethoven sonatas, put down in the late 1960's. I think he's pretty good in these, very fiery and vigorous. The finale of the Waldstein Sonata has a very happy feel, sounding to me being played to sound like ringing bells (maybe Rachmaninov is a point of reference for this pianist here, rightly or wrongly, or in between?). Review below (which is kind of mixed, but I don't take much notice of these things, I trust my own "instinctive" judgement a bit more) & also the front cover of the CD -

    http://www.musicweb-international.co...zy_4801304.htm


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    Senior Member itywltmt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sid James View Post
    I've got Ashkenazy's recording of two key Beethoven sonatas, put down in the late 1960's. I think he's pretty good in these, very fiery and vigorous. The finale of the Waldstein Sonata has a very happy feel, sounding to me being played to sound like ringing bells (maybe Rachmaninov is a point of reference for this pianist here, rightly or wrongly, or in between?). Review below (which is kind of mixed, but I don't take much notice of these things, I trust my own "instinctive" judgement a bit more) & also the front cover of the CD -

    http://www.musicweb-international.co...zy_4801304.htm

    I own the ASshkenazy beethoven sonata cycle, budget priced. I think it's great value.


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    Quote Originally Posted by itywltmt View Post
    I own the ASshkenazy beethoven sonata cycle, budget priced. I think it's great value.
    Looks good, itywltmt. Ashkenazy recorded two Beethoven sonata cycles (I think?), one earlier on in the 1960's-70's & the other one later in about the 1980's (both for Decca). The writer of the liner notes for my Eloquence disc I posted above does compare the two cycles a bit, but I think he sees the main difference between the two to be better, more detailed sound in the second cycle compared to the first. That's what I remember him writing, anyway...

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