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xxxxxxxxxxxA Brief Biography

Born in 1976 in Nazareth, Palestinian-Israeli pianist Saleem Abboud Ashkar studied at the 'Royal Academy of Music' in London and at the 'Hochschule für Musik' in Hannover, Germany.

He appears frequently with the major Israeli orchestras including the Israel Philharmonic and Jerusalem Symphony. He made his New York Carnegie Hall debut at the age of 22. He performs regularly with conductors such as Zubin Mehta, Daniel Barenboim, Riccardo Muti, Lawrence Foster, Sebastian Weigle and Vladimir Fedoseyev.

In 2006 he played concerts with the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festival (Mozart) were he also gave a solo recital at the Mozarteum. Further engagements that year included the prestigious Risør Festival, the Ravinia (Chicago Symphony) and Menton Festivals as well as his debut with the Berlin Konzerthaus Orchestra (Schumann) and the Birmingham Symphony orchestra (Beethoven).

In 2007 Mr. Abboud Ashkar will play the Grieg concerto with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra on the centennial anniversary of the composer’s death. The IPO will go on tour with Mr. Abboud Ashkar as soloist (Beethoven) to appear in Amsterdam and Copenhagen under Zubin Mehta; he will also be soloist in a concert in Tel Aviv, conducted by Riccardo Muti, and will make his recital debut at the Lucerne Festival. During the season 2008/09 Riccardo Chailly invited him to play Mendelssohn with the Gewandhaus Orchestra under his direction, he will play (Brahms) with the Dresden Philharmonic and the Grieg Concerto under Okko Kamu  the Vienna's  Musikvereinssaal in spring of 2008.

In 2005 EMI released his highly acclaimed debut CD.


In his own words:

Thinking back on  my childhood I find it hard to grasp why exactly it was that I wanted to become a pianist, considering that as a seven-year-old, I had never seen a concert pianist, or better said, had never heard or attended a concert. Growing up in the Arab-Israeli town of Nazareth, the normal sounds that I was used to and which surrounded me were the Muslim call for prayer, the voice of Um-Kolthum (the diva of classical Arabic singing) emerging from the leather shop facing my grandfather’s carpentry, or the loud cries of the donkeys carrying the garbage through the narrow alleys. I must admit that of all of these the donkey’s voice touched me the most! 

If you add to that the olfactory "fog"  of spices, saliva coming from  sweet shops and from a dysfunctional sewage system, you get the Bazaar picture that makes me, and I bet any other Diaspora Palestinian,  homesick.

And yet, two black vinyl records and a couple of old Soviet music books that a  friend of my father brought from his visit to Moscow captured my imagination so intensely that as long as I can remember, I answered that irritating question adults so often enjoy  asking, i.e. “what would you like to be when you grow up?” with a firm and clear: "a  pianist!" (An answer that always distressed my late grandmother who wanted me to do something more “respectable!”)

I, like many young musicians, had my share of early gratifications and disappointments. But what I, in my youthful naïveté knew of, albeit never fully understood, was the heavy  burden that my parents had to deal with in terms of my musical education. For me,  to develop in classical music meant that I had to cross the boundaries of my society at a very early age, raising a range of difficult questions beyond the purely practical difficulties, concerning cultural confrontations, my sense of belonging and last but not least the fear of political confrontations. Some of these problems could never really  be  solved, some turned out to be unjustified fears, but  on the whole my family and I had to make some brave decisions and sacrifices.

I have a feeling that I shall never be able to fully assess the effect these decisions had on me as a person and as an artist. However, I did find much to sympathize with in Edward Said’s autobiography Out of Place—that sense of never belonging fully and completely to one society, one culture, and the psychological  comfort this can  provide. Still, there is a lesson I have learned from it all: although comfort has been the aspiration of many, the lack of it has been the inspiration and driving force for many others.