Askonas Holt was created in 1998. It is an amalgamation of two long-established and distinguished Artists' Managements, both based in London but with truly international connections.
Lies Askonas (1913-1996) was born in Vienna but settled in England in 1945 and formed her own agency in 1955, encouraged by a life-long friend, the legendary Elisabeth Schumann. Very swiftly she had assembled a bluechip roster of singers, such as Hotter, Svanholm, Nilsson, Popp, Berganza, Prey and Gedda, and conductors, including Kertesz, Abbado and Mehta.
Her talents extended far beyond artist management into touring projects - with the opera companies from Hamburg, Prague and Stockholm to the Edinburgh Festival; tours with the Stuttgart Ballet with John Cranko, and with the Royal Ballet and Fonteyn; orchestral tours with Giulini and Kempe; and she took the Royal Shakespeare Company’s famous production of “King Lear”, directed by Peter Brook and starring Paul Scofield, to eastern Europe, an exceptional development for its time.
Harold Holt Ltd was founded in 1876 by Alfred Schultz Curtius, who was the first impresario to bring Richard Wagner’s music to the London public. The company became renowned for its presentations in the latter part of the 19th Century and into the 20th Century, with South African-born Harold Holt taking over in the 1930s. Some legendary presentations at the Royal Albert Hall included the Berliner Philharmoniker, Fürtwangler and Menuhin, Dame Nellie Melba and a short-trousered Claudio Arrau.
The arrival of Sir Ian Hunter in 1956 from the Edinburgh Festival brought a new dimension of artists and festival direction.
Under the artistic direction of Hunter, festivals were founded by Harold Holt in Bath, Hong Kong, Malvern, Windsor, Brighton and the City of London. Artists such as Stern, Haitink, Barenboim, Perlman and Piatigorsky joined the managements, and less obvious connections were formed with Paul Robeson, Tom Lehrer and Gerard Hoffnung.
Lies Askonas and Sir Ian Hunter were lifelong friends and colleagues. Askonas Holt’s current joint executives both learnt their trades at these two great companies: Robert Rattray with Lies Askonas from 1977, and Martin Campbell-White at Harold Holt from 1972.