Saleem’s main focus in 2016/17 season has been a complete Beethoven Sonata cycle presented by the Konzerthaus and performed across Berlin and also in parallel in Prague and Osnabrück at the Morgenland Festival. Outside these recital series he has enjoyed a busy season of concerto and recital work. Starting with a concert in Verona with the Bamberger Symphoniker under Christoph Eschenbach, September also saw Saleem travelling to Luxembourg, where he played with the Orchestre Philharmonique under Nikolaj Znaider.
October saw him travelling/returning to the National Arts Center Ottawa, Canada, where he played Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3. with the National Arts Center Orchestra under Alexander Shelley.
This was aristocratic Beethoven: deeply dignified, a little serious, smoulderingly romantic. Ashkar’s virtuosity is formidable, all the more so because it doesn’t draw attention to itself: everything is taste and elegance personified. Natasha Gauthier, Ottawa Citizen, 19 October 2016
After a concert with the DiamantEnsemblet in Copenhagen in November, Saleem travelled to Ankara for a recital at the Ankara Piano Festival.
The New Year couldn’t have seen a more exciting start than with a concert in the stunning Elbphilharmonie in the first week of its opening, playing the Clarinet Trio by Brahms alongside Yo-Yo Ma and clarinettist Kinan Azmeh, who had also composed three of the five pieces that were played that evening.
So far, spring has seen engagements with the Orchestra della Toscana in Florence, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in Poole, Orchestra Verdi in Milan a trip to the US for engagements at Cal Performances, Berkeley and to the East Coast for a residency at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island before flying back to London for his Wigmore Hall debut to a 5 star review and immediate re-invitation. Writing for The Arts Desk, David Nice said of Saleem’s performance:
“Nazareth-born pianist and champion of humanitarian projects Saleem Ashkar kicked off a titanic trilogy of Beethoven piano sonatas with the “Appassionata” – a daunting opener at the best of times, let alone at 11.30am but this is a player working at the very highest level of concentration; you can tell so much from the preparation before the launch, and this was as impressive and crowd-stilling as the way he rounded off phrases. The cut-offs of the chordal theme in this great F minor Sonata’s slow movement were capped only by the divine grace implied by the emergence of the upper register. The sound is very special to Ashkar; the only way I can think of describing it is as a granite cliff with a pearly-opalescent surface.”
The culmination of the Beethoven Sonata Cycle in June at the Konzerthaus coincided with the first double CD release with Decca of the complete cycle and we can look forward to a further 3 dics across the coming seasons.
Click here to hear Saleem talking about his new release and the culmination of his Beethoven Cycle at the Konzerthaus Berlin on Deutschlandfunk Kultur and here to listen to an interview for NDR Kultur ‘Klassik à la carte’