Born in Tel Aviv on January 11, 1941, he began his musical training at the Musical Academy of Tel-Aviv studying with legendary pedagogue Ilona Feher, the teacher of such violinists as Pinchas Zuckerman and Shlomo Mintz. He arrived in the United States while still young and studied with Efrem Zimbalist at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Ashkenasi won the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in 1961 and in 1962 captured top prizes at the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, Russia, the Merriweather Post Competition in Washington, D.C., and the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition in Belgium. As a soloist, he has toured the Soviet Union twice and plays concerts every year throughout Europe, Israel and the Far East. He has performed with American orchestras such as the Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, National Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Atlanta Symphony, Vienna Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, and the orchestras of Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Zurich, Rotterdam, Geneva and Stockholm.
In 1969, Ashkenasi formed the Vermeer Quartet at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont and remained as its first violinist throughout the quartet's career. The Vermeer Quartet held residencies at Northern Illinois University and at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England. Its discography includes works of Beethoven, Bartók, Dvořák, Haydn (a Grammy-nominated recording of the Seven Last Words of Christ), Schubert, Tchaikovsky, and Verdi.
Ashkenasi is also a noted pedagogue, currently holding the posts of Professor of Violin at Roosevelt University's Chicago College of Performing Arts and the Curtis Institute of Music. His students include Viviane Hagner, Gwendolyn Masin, and Gerhard Schulz.
- Boris Schwarz: Great Masters of the Violin. From Corelli and Vivaldi to Stern, Zukerman and Perlman. Simon and Schuster, New York 1983.
- Darryl Lyman: Great Jews in Music. J. D. Publishers, Middle Village, NY 1986.
- Kurtz Myers: Index to record reviews 1984-1987. G.K. Hall, Boston, Ma. 1989.
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