Vladimir Ashkenazy – Malaysia should have a conservatory
3 December 2009 | Franz Felicius
And according to virtuoso pianist, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Malaysians are already groomed for a classical music awakening. The Russian is ranked as one of the greatest pianists of the modern era, as well as music director and conductor laureate.
Ashkenazy and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (SSO) were in Kuala Lumpur recently for two nights of stellar performances at the Petronas Philharmonic Hall (DFP). Ashkenazy’s musical career screams ‘extraordinary’ in every way. Having played the piano at the age of six, he was accepted at the Central Music School, Moscow at age eight after demonstrating prodigious talent. The 72-year old pianist’s career has spawned numerous chamber music recording that garnered him critical praise and accolades including several Grammy awards. He later branched into conducting and was the principal conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and was the Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, and Music director of the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo.
With 20 years of conducting experience under his belt, he began early this year his four-year tenure as principal conductor and artistic advisor of the world-class Sydney Symphony Orchestra (SSO). Met during a luncheon with Penny Williams, the Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia, Ashkenazy having played the piano masterfully at a young age advised youngsters to learn classical music with diligence. «If you want to be a serious classical musician, you must start early especially with instruments like the piano and violin. It will definitely be too late to have a real career in classical music if you learn to play an instrument when you’re older».
A graduate of the Moscow Conservatory, (one of the leading music universities in Russia) Ashkenazy is part of the fine list of its alumni which includes Natalya Ageyeva (pianist and Artistic Director Russian Chamber Music Foundation of Seattle) as well as violinist and musicologist Alexei Gorokhov. Conservatories are colleges or academies of music and university schools of music, which are tertiary level institutions, and can either be independent or part of a university.
Classical music is often the principal study in most of the world’s famous conservatories such as the Royal Academy of Music, London, The Paris Conservatoire and the Juilliard School of Music in New York. However, in non-European and non-American countries like China’s Shanghai Conservatory of Music, traditional instruments are prioritised. On the other hand, Malaysia has yet to have its own conservatory, a development that Ashkenazy noted as unfortunate.
«Malaysia should have a conservatory, because what’s happening now is that classical music students here have to go abroad to pursue their tertiary studies. Eventually they will stay in those countries instead of coming back to play with local orchestras. It’s a big loss for classical music progress in Malaysia».