'I don’t think we can make political points with music' – Vladimir Ashkenazy

16 June 2017, 17:42 | Updated: 16 June 2017, 17:59

By Lizzie Davis

Vladimir Ashkenazy is a legend of classical music. He first shot to fame when he won the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition and he’s since performed and recorded with all the major orchestras, in concert halls around the world. We asked him to share some pearls of wisdom from that incredible career.

How to get the most out of your practice?

This is a question that comes up a lot from young musicians. Here’s what Ashkenazy had to say, and it all comes down to being honest with yourself:

How do you deal with nerves?

Every musician has dealt with stage fright at some point in their career. How does one of the world’s greats deal with pre-performance nerves?

What advice would you give to someone trying to become a conductor?

Reassuringly, the great pianist and conductor had this to say: “When I first began to conduct, I didn’t know how to conduct.”

It turns out even the very greatest struggle with keeping an orchestra in time when they start out:

What do you think the role of music can be in politics?

I don’t think we can make political points with music. We can contribute but we can’t make political points. We have very little power.

How important do you think competitions are?

Should young musicians enter competitions to help launch their career? We asked Ashkenazy, who famously won the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1962.

To mark his 80th birthday, on 6 July, Decca are releasing Vladimir Ashkenazy's new recording of Bach's French Suites (available to order now on iTunes and Amazon). They're also releasing a box-set of the great pianist's complete concerto recordings. Find out more here and to read more about how Decca is celebrating their their longest-serving artist.