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 Zukerman 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 was chosen to form the Vermeer Quartet by NIU Chair of the Dept. of Music at Northern Illinois University, Stan Ballinger. Consequently auditions were held during the next year to establish the esteemed Vermeer Quartet! We faculty members were also involved in choosing the name of this famous quartet. Mr. Ashkenasi 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, Brahms, Dvořák, Haydn (a Grammy-nominated recording of the Seven Last Words of Christ, produced by the violist of the quartet, Richard Young), Schubert, Schnittke, Tchaikovsky, and Verdi.
Ashkenasi is also a noted pedagogue, currently holding the posts of Professor of Violin at Bard College Conservatory of Music, Roosevelt University's Chicago College of Performing Arts and the Curtis Institute of Music. His students include Viviane Hagner, Gwendolyn Masin, Josep Colomé and Gerhard Schulz.
- Unknown. "Faculty". Bard College Conservatory. Bard College. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
- 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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