The English pianist, Ashley Wass, began playing the piano at 5, and studied music at Chethams Music School from age 11. In his teens he studied on scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music, where his teachers included Christopher Elton and Hamish Milne. Wass later studied with Murray Perahia. He is the only British winner of the London International Piano Competition (1997), prize-winner at the Leeds Piano Competition, and a former BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist.
Described as an ‘endlessly fascinating artist’, Ashley Wass is firmly established as one of the leading performers of his generation. Increasingly in demand on the international stage, he has performed at many of the world’s finest concert halls including Wigmore Hall, Carnegie Hall and the Vienna Konzerthaus. He has performed as soloist with numerous leading ensembles, including all of the BBC orchestras, Philharmonia Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lille, Wiener Kammerorchester, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and under the baton of conductors such as Simon Rattle, Osmo Vanska, Donald Runnicles, Ilan Volkov and Vassily Sinaisky.
Though he possesses a vast and varied repertoire, Ashley Wass has been most closely associated with the keyboard outputs of Arnold Bax, William Alwyn, Frank Bridge, and Edward Elgar, four English composers not usually associated with piano music. But Wass is not necessarily partial to music by his countrymen; he has only performed one English concerto, the Benjamin Britten. Moreover, he plays an array works by L.v. Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, Chopin, Franz Liszt, César Franck, André Messager, and many others.
In June 2002 Ashley Wass appeared alongside the likes of Sir Thomas Allen, Mstislav Rostropovich and Angela Gheorghiu in a gala concert at Buckingham Palace to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, a performance broadcast live to millions of viewers around the world. In 2003 Wass founded the Denali Trio, serving as pianist in the group, with violinist Jesse Mills and cellist Sarah Carter. That same year Wass and the Denali Trio launched their debut tour of Great Britain, achieving consistent critical acclaim. In recent years he has become a regular guest at the BBC Proms, making his debut in 2008 with Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Piano Concerto, and returning in following seasons to perform works by Foulds, Igor Stravinsky, Antheil, and McCabe.
Much in demand as a chamber musician, Ashley regularly partners many of the leading artists of his generation. He is a frequent guest of international festivals such as Pharos (Cyprus), Bath, Ako (Japan), Cheltenham, Kuhmo, Mecklenburg, Gstaad, City of London, and Ravinia and Marlboro in the USA, playing solo recitals and chamber works with musicians such as Mitsuko Uchida, Steven Isserlis, Emmanuel Pahud, Richard Goode and members of the Guarneri Quartet and Beaux Arts Trio. Wass is the Artistic Director of the Lincolnshire International Chamber Music Festival. The Festival has grown from strength to strength during his tenure, with sold-out performances of challenging repertoire and broadcasts on BBC Radio 3.
This victory in the London Competition in 1997 led to a recording contract with Naxos, making Ashley Wass the first solo artist to obtain an exclusive deal with the label. His first recording was a highly praised CD of César Franck piano music, released in 1999. Wass has since made more than a dozen recordings for Naxos, with more to follow. In 2004 Naxos released the first of Wass' discs devoted to the music of Arnold Bax, a CD containing Sonatas No. 1 and No. 2 and other works. He has recorded more than a half-dozen discs devoted to Arnold Bax, including sonatas for violin and piano, as well as music for two pianos, and he has made three discs of Frank Bridge works, taking in both solo pieces and music for piano trio. Since the late 1990’s he has amassed a substantial recorded output of more than 20 albums, mostly available on Naxos, with scattered efforts on EMI, Hyperion, and Kultur Video. Renowned for a broad and eclectic repertoire, Ashley has received great critical acclaim for his recordings of music from a wide range of styles and eras, with glowing reviews of his interpretations of composers such as Franz Liszt, César Franck, L.v. Beethoven and Frank Bridge. His survey of Arnold Bax’ piano music was nominated for a Gramophone Award and his discography boasts a number of Gramophone ‘Editor’s Choice’ recordings and BBC Music Magazine ‘Choices’. Wass' later recordings include the Arnold Bax’ Symphonic Variations for Piano and Orchestra and Concertante for Left Hand.
Ashley Ashley is currently a Professor of Piano at the Royal College of Music, London, and is an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music.