Saleem Ashkar

“Ashkar’s virtuosity is formidable, all the more so because it doesn’t draw attention to itself: everything is taste and elegance personified.” (Ottawa Citizen)

© Luidmila Jermies


Saleem Ashkar made his Carnegie Hall debut at the age of 22 and has since gone on to establish an international career. Recent and future concerto highlights include the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Konzerthausorchester Berlin and the St Louis, Vancouver and Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestras.

He has also performed with the Wiener Philharmoniker, Royal Concertgebouw, London Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Orchestre National de Lyon and on a three week tour to Australia. Saleem has a close relationship with many leading conductors including David Afkham, Daniel Barenboim, Riccardo Chailly, Jakub Hrůša, Pietari Inkinen, Fabio Luisi, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, Kazushi Ono and Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider.

A dedicated recitalist and chamber musician, Saleem has a particularly strong reputation as a Beethoven specialist and has recently performed a complete Sonata cycle in Prague, Duisburg and at the Konzerthaus Berlin. This season he will perform recitals at Santa Cecilia Hall in Rome, Boulezsaal in Berlin and Wigmore Hall in London. Other recent and future recital appearances include the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg and Musikverein Vienna. Elsewhere this season, Saleem performs with the Luxembourg Philharmonic and Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Saleem’s most recent recordings have been for Decca Records. They have released the Mendelssohn Piano Concertos with the Leipzig Gewandhaus and Chailly and two Beethoven Concertos with the NDR Elbphilharmonie and Ivor Bolton. Saleem is also recording the complete Beethoven Piano Sonata cycle for Decca, the first three discs of which are already released.

Performance Schedule

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    11:30 13 Jun 2021 Wigmore Hall, LONDON

    BACH Partita No. 4 in D major BWV 828
    DEBUSSY Douze Préludes / book 1

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    31 Jan 20 St Louis. Symphony Orchestra Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No. 2
    Powell Symphony Hall

    “The lovely melodies from the composer seem to flow from his head down to his fingers in such a way that, as the program notes, he seems to have three hands… nobody does Mendelssohn better than Ashkar.”

    St Louis Today, January 2020

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    22 Feb 19 Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Nos. 2, 10, 12, 13, 21, 24, 31
    CD Review

    “Ashkar non le ha messe insieme per caso. Ma per porre in evidenza l’unità di concezione di tutto il ciclo. Con lucidità e grande sensibilità. Un ascolto illuminante.”

    ★★★★★ La Republica

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    22 Jan 19 Preludes Recital
    Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg

    „Da sitzt ein großer Poet am Flügel“

    “The way in which he plays is reminiscent of a great poet singing at a grand piano.“

    „Er fesselte das Publikum mit einem breiten Spektrum an Klangschattierungen und reicher Fantasie.“

    “He captivated the public with his broad spectrum of nuanced tone colours and lush fantasy.“

     „Als würde er seine Interpretationen vor allem mit der Kraft des Geistes formen.“

    “His interpretations seem to reflect an almost spiritual connection to the music itself.“

     „Ashkar ist kein Tastenlöwe, sondern ein Zauberer, der die piMoresken Szenen der Préludes am inneren Auge des Hörers vorbei ziehen lässt.“

    “Ashkar’s playing is not at all forceful. There is something magical about the way in which he calls forth the picturesque scenes of the Préludes to appear before the inner eyes of his enchanted audience.“

     „Hier tritt ein außergewöhnliches Talent von Saleem Ashkar besonders deutlich zu Tage: Sein Gespür für das Timing, für minimale Staus und Beschleunigungen im Tempo. Dieses Gespür erlaubt es ihm, jedes Detail sorgsam zu modellieren und trotzdem im Fluss zu bleiben.“

    “His innate feeling for timing manifests in the delicate changes in tempo that he employs so skillfully. This extraordinary talent of Saleem Ashkar’s enables him to elegantly display the intricacy of the music without having to sacrifice its natural flow.“

    Translation by third party

    Marcus Stabler, Hamburg Abendblatt, 22 Jan 19

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    31 Oct 18 Grieg Piano Concerto Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
    Poole Lighthouse

    “Grieg’s Piano Concerto drew a powerful […] account from Saleem Ashkar”

    “[Ashkar brought a] Mozartean clarity with a diamond-bright tone at the forefront of his armoury.”

    David Truslove, Classical Source, 1 Nov 18

    “Saleem Ashkar delivered a poised and pleasingly nuanced performance of the ever-popular Grieg Piano Concerto. I was particularly appreciative of Ashkar’s delicacy and sensibility through the lovely Adagio central movement.”

    Ian Lace, Seen and Heard, 2 Nov 18

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    27 Nov 17 Beethoven Cycle Recital
    National Gallery in Prague

    “Saleem proved himself last night as a thoughtful and highly creative player who can give his audience multiple perspectives on both the compositions and the instrument they were written for.”

    Libor Nováček Jr, Operaplus, 28 Nov 17

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    30 Sep 17 BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

    “[Ashkar’s] Adagio and finale impressed for his insight and vigour respectively”

    Clive O’ Connell, The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 October 17

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    31 Jul 17 Beethoven - Piano Sonatas Nos. 3, 5, 14 & 30 Decca Records

    “Mit wunderbar austarierten Klang widmet er sich seiner Aufgabe, weiß um die Bedeutung jeder Phrase, sei es im Finale von Op. 10 No. 1 oder aber im wunderbar gesanglichen 2.”

    “Alles ist klar, nachvollziehbar und überzeugend gespielt.”

    Carsten Dürer, PIANONews, September 17

    “Wenn dieser Bogen auch interpretatorisch fest gespannt ist, so ergibt das zur Verfügung stehende schwarz-weiß des Klaviers ein Feuerwerk an Farben”

    Nadja Kayali, Österreich 1, 22 Aug 17

    “Durchdacht und überzeugend!”

    CD of the Day, Radio Klassik, 4 Aug 17

    “Der Hörer vernimmt existentiell aufgeladene Beethoven-Exegesen […] eminentes Handwerk [und] nuancierter Klanggebung. Ein denkwürdiger Auftakt eines opulenten Sonaten-Projektes”

    Martin Hoffmeister, MDR Culture, 31 July 17

    “Those wanting Beethoven with a bit of muscular star quality may well rejoice at Ashkar’s album, and all should look forward to the rest of the cycle.”

    James Manheim, AllMusic, June 2017

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    08 Jun 17 Beethoven Piano Sonatas
    Wigmore Hall

    “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.”
    David Nice, theartsdesk.com, 08 May 2017

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    15 Mar 17 Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 2 Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra / Antonio Méndez
    Lighthouse, Poole

    “The chromatic passages in the opening allegro allowed the soloist to show off his impressively light touch before he lulled the audience in the serene second movement.

    The alternating phrases of piano and orchestra in the finale were seamless and a highlight of the impressive performance.”

    Jade Grassby, Bournemouth Daily Echo, 16 March 2017


    “… the rollicking, galloping concluding Rondo was a real delight.”

    Ian Lace, Seen and Heard, 17 March 2017

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    19 Oct 16 Beethoven Piano Concerto no. 3, 19 October 2016
    National Arts Centre Orchestra, Southam Hall, Canada

    “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

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    17 Jul 16 Beethoven: Sonatas Nos. 11, 21, 16, 32
    Zelt-Musik-Festival Freiburg

    “Das Adagio con molto espressione aus der Sonate in B-Dur op. 22 ist ein Legatotraum. In der bekannten “Waldstein”-Sonate op. 53 zeigt sich der Pianist als technisch beschlagener Interpret, der die großen Zusammenhänge aufzeigt. Wie Ashkar nach dem selbstbewusst-brillanten Kopfsatz, in dem er die Bässe hämmert, im zweifelnden Adagio den Boden unter den Füßen wegzieht, ehe er das Rondo nach und nach wieder an Sicherheit und Dramatik gewinnen lässt – das ist pianistische Meisterschaft.”
    Georg Rudiger, Badische Zeitung, 18 July 2016

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    16 May 16 Beethoven Sonata Cycle
    Krönungssaal, Aachen

    “Ashkar bewies bereits im ersten Teil, dass er ein Beethoven-Interpret von höchster Kompetenz ist, spieltechnisch souverän, mit einem differenzierten Anschlag versehen, mit leuchtkräftigem Diskant und robustem Zugriff, aber ebenso feinsten Zwischentönen und kantabler Melodiegestaltung.”
    Thomas Neaujean, Aachener Zeitung, 17 May 2016

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    23 Oct 15 Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto no. 1
    Tampere Philharmonia, Nikolaj Znaider

    “Saleem Ashkar used his skillful fingers with excellent intensiveness in crucial moments during his debut in Tampere. The octaves in the beginning had majestic braveness/gracefulness and the acceleration at the end gave visions of ecstatic Cossacks!

    The balance between bellowing virtuosic periods and the poetic peaceful moments was especially good in the pianist’s performance. Ashkar also didn’t make the concerto too dramatic or too romantic and the rendition was a stylish piece.”

    Harri Hautala

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    08 Oct 15 Istanbul Recital Series - Opening Concert
    The Seed

    “The young but duly seasoned artist demonstrated a fascinating through-line in the composer’s 32 piano sonatas, starting with No. 1 and ending with No. 31.

    This, where Ashkar startled his audience with a bolt of energy and abundant technical fluidity in the many virtuosic passages that came like a blitz after brooding contemplation. In all the many performances of this keyboard masterpiece I’ve heard, this was one of the most electrifying. In addition to bringing out the punchy, pointillistic syncopations in the left hand and the knuckle-busting demands for the right hand, Ashkar brings his own fervent impetuosity to the genre — one that is very well matched to Beethoven — and one that is not easily forgotten.”

    Alexandra Ivanoff, Todays Zaman

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    27 May 15 Beethoven Piano Concerto no. 4 in G major, op.58
    Staatskapelle Berlin, David Afkham, Konzerthaus, Berlin

    “… the formidable pianist formed the work’s lyric-earnest mood balancing the expressions of doubtful thoughtfulness and virtuosic abandon with playfulness and beauty of sound.”

    Matthias Nöther, Berliner Morgenpost, 29 May 2015

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    16 May 15 Beethoven Sonata Cycle no. 5
    Sage, Gatestead

    “The slow movement had a stately elegance, while Ashkar hurtled helter-skelter through the finale’s Bach-style fugue … It could be said that if Beethoven himself was looking down, he would in turn have been delighted with Ashkar’s sparkling treatment of the fiendish passage.”

    Beethoven Sonata no. 6, op.10, no.2

    “His introduction to the slow movement was exquisitely restrained, with each note allowed to breathe, as the underlying drama built up to a song of aching beauty.”
    Sonata no. 21 in C major, ‘Waldstein’, op.53

    “The hypnotic final movement was wonderfully executed and drawn to the most gentle of resolutions. An enraptured audience showered Ashkar with applause. He was genuinely touched – as we all were.”

    Gavin Engelbrecht, The Northern Echo, 18 May 2015

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    02 May 14 Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No. 1
    Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Mark Wigglesworth

    “While Palestinian-Israeli pianist Saleem Ashkar navigated the work’s glittering runs and crisp flourishes with a light, elegant touch, his interpretation was most impressive for its emotional sophistication.

    The andante was approached with delicate introspection, the solo line emerging with almost reluctant spontaneity before building to a painfully hushed fervour. The final movement captured all the frenetic madness of youth, Ashkar drawing out the contrasting flashbacks to the first movement’s elegance and lingering in the brief melancholic stillness that precedes the frenzied rush to the finish line.

    As an encore, Ashkar gave a gently hesitant rendition of Traumerei from Schumann’s Kinderszenen, brilliantly capturing the work’s fragility and nostalgia.”

    Eamonn Kelly, The Astralian, 5 May 2014

    “It was hard to take one’s eyes off the pianist – especially from a vantage point like mine that showed his fingers to be flying across the keys …Ashkar appeared absorbed by the lyricism of what he was playing, the music intensified by rich harmony as the orchestra entered. This was Mendelssohn at his most heart-stirring, especially when performed by such an ensemble.

    [The encore] one of Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words was the perfect choice for Ashkar to show he was a sensitive interpreter of this composer’s music, as well as having a brilliant technique.”

    Suzanne Yanko, Classical Melbourne, 8 May 2014

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    01 May 14 Mendelssohn A Midsummer Night's Dream/Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2
    Gewandhaus, Riccardo Chailly

    “… nella stessa sintonia con il pianista israelo-palestiniano Saleem Ashkar il cui virtuosismo tastieristico anima i due Concerti nel modo più giusto, non semplice ossequio ad una compiaciuta brillantezza ornamentale ma un librarsi verso orizzonti più ineffabili, romantici appunto.”

    ★★★★★ Gian Paolo Minardi, Classic Voice, June 2014


    “The high point is the two Piano Concertos. Pianist Saleem Ashkar proves an ideal match for Chailly and the orchestra. He captures just the right balance of clarity, swiftness of attack, poetry and élan: every note shines with sun-reflecting clarity as the finales whirl along. Mendelssohn’s limitless passagework wonderfully even and always musically shaped. Best of all, though, this feels like chamber music in which eavesdropping on the conversation of pianist and orchestra is more crucial than merely admiring the sound of their voices.”
    Jessica Duchen, BBC Music Magazine, August 2014

    “Saleem Ashkar echoes Chailly’s high-flying approach with a dexterity as immaculate as it is awe-inspiring, the finales of both concertos taken at a speed that less gifted pianists can only envy … Ashkar’s is an art that disguises art and his performances are among the finest in the catalogue.”

    Bryce Morrison, Gramophone Magazine, August 2014

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    19 Mar 14 Schumann Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54
    National Arts Centre Orchestra, Ottawa, Jakub Hrůša

    “Pianist Saleem Ashkar turned in a robust, engaging performance. His clarity of line was exemplary, as was his sense of the score’s poetry.”

    Ottawa Citizen, 20 March 2014


BACH Concerto No. 3 in D major BWV 1054
BACH Concerto No. 5 in F minor BWV 1056

BERG Chamber Concerto

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major Op. 15
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major Op. 19
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor Op. 37
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major Op. 58
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, “Emperor” Op. 73
BEETHOVEN Fantasy in C minor for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra Op. 80

BRAHMS Piano Concerto No 1 in D minor Op. 15
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No 2 in B-flat major Op. 83

CHOPIN Piano Concerto No.1 in E minor Op. 11

FALLA Nights in the Gardens of Spain

GERSHWIN Piano Concert in F

GRIEG Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 16

MENDELSSOHN Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor Op. 25
MENDELSSOHN Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor Op. 40
MENDELSSOHN Rondo Brillant in E-flat Major for Piano and Orchestra Op. 29

MOZART Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat major K. 271
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 10 in E-flat major K. 365
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 12 in A major K.414
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 13 in C major K.415
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 14 in E-flat major K.449
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major K.453
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 19 in F major K. 459
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor K.466
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major K.467
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat major K.482
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major K.488
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor K.491
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major K.503
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 26 in D major K.537, Coronation
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat major K.595

RACHMANINOFF Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor Op. 18

RAVEL Piano Concerto for the left hand in D major

SCHUMANN Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 54

SAINT-SAENS Africa, Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra Op. 89
SAINT-SAENS Piano Concerto No. 5 in F major Op. 103

STRAUSS ‘Burleske in D minor’

TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor Op. 23
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 2 in G major Op. 44


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    Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Nos. 2, 10, 12, 13, 21, 24, 31

    Label: Decca

    Release Date: 22 Feb 19

    BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 2 in A major Op. 2 No. 2
    BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 10 in G major Op. 14 No. 2
    BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 12 in A flat major Op. 26 ‘March Funebre’
    BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 13 in E flat major Op. 27 No. 1 ‘Quasi una fantasia’
    BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major Op. 53 ‘Waldstein’
    BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 24 in F sharp major Op. 78
    BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat major Op. 110

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    Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Nos. 6, 23 and 32

    Label: Decca

    Release Date: 02 Feb 18

    BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 6 in F Major Op. 10

    BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor Op. 57, Appassionata

    BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 32 in C Minor Op. 111

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    Beethoven Piano Sonatas 3, 5, 14 Moonlight & 30

    Label: Decca

    Release Date: 02 Jun 17

    DISC 1
    Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 3 in C, Op. 2 No. 3
    Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 5 in C minor, Op. 10 No. 1
    DISC 2
    Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 14 In C-sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 2 – Moonlight
    Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major, Op. 109

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    Felix Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Piano Concerts Nos. 1 & 2

    Label: Decca International

    Release Date: 05 May 14

    Gewandhausorchester Leipzig/Riccardo Chailly

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    Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 4

    Label: Decca Italy

    Release Date: 05 Feb 13

    NDR Sinfonieorchester/Ivor Bolton

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    Saleem Ashkar: Brahms, Mozart, Schubert

    Label: EMI Classics

    Release Date: 03 Oct 05

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Sonata in D, K576

    Franz Schubert – Sonata in A minor, D784

    Johannes Brahms – Variations and Fugue on a theme by G. F. Handel, op. 24


“Born into a culture where Classical music played very little to no part at all, my love for this music and eventual obsessive pursuit of it, was a journey, very much into the unknown, both mentally and practically. I simply had no path to follow!

That journey, was by no means only my own, music infected the whole house! My parents Duaibis and Maha who are not musicians, felt compelled to change that reality for younger generations, step by step and with very little outside support they have managed to do that. My violinist brother Nabeel has also devoted himself entirely to this work.

There are now hundreds of children and youngsters playing instruments on various levels, some winning first prizes at top youth competitions in Israel.

My work with the these young musicians is tremendously rewarding and meaningful to me – constantly going back to play, teach and pass on whatever experience I have gathered.

I am delighted that the culmination of this work can be seen in the founding of the Galilee Chamber Orchestra, which brings together the best students alongside their teachers and some of the best young players in Israel. The Orchestra provides both a professional and social context for these young musicians in a very similar vein to the Simon Bolivar Orchestra in Venezuela. I am very proud to play with, conduct and lead this Orchestra several weeks a season – seldom does musical and personal fulfilment come so beautifully together.” – Saleem Ashkar

Saleem is Ambassador to the Music Fund, a humanitarian project that supports musicians and music schools in conflict areas and developing countries.

He also collaborates with the Al-Farabi Musikakademie in Berlin, a new project for music-loving young people with a migratory background, acting as joint Artistic Director.

A keen educator, Saleem regularly includes masterclasses in his schedule.