Askonas Holt is one of the world’s leading arts management agencies. Based in central London, the company represents an unrivalled roster of vocal, instrumental and conducting talent, as well as managing tours for many outstanding orchestras and dance companies.
Askonas Holt’s artists are active world-wide, 365 days a year, participating in musical events both large and small. To support the quality and diversity of their work, we employ an outstanding team of artist and project managers, together with specialist staff in the areas of travel, finance, information technology and marketing. Our business thrives on close working relationships with arts organisations around the globe, and it aspires to offer exceptional service to artists and presenters alike.
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 management, 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 first Joint Chief 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.
In 1998, the two concert agencies, Harold Holt (established in 1876) and Lies Askonas (established in 1955), merged to form Askonas Holt, the company continued to grow and develop under the leadership of Martin Campbell-White and Robert Rattray. Together they took the business forward, adding an ever greater range of world-class talent to the roster and encouraging significant growth in the area of Tours & Projects. The company is now an industry leader with over 60 staff and a truly global network.
In January 2014, the company embarked on a new era in its history with Donagh Collins assuming the role of Chief Executive. Donagh joined the company in 1999 and most recently held the position of Director of Tours and Projects.
In June 2014, Martin Campbell-White and Robert Rattray were both awarded MBEs in the Queen’s Birthday honours list, for their services to the music industry (click here for the full story). The honours followed a matter of weeks after Martin was made an Honorary Member of the Royal Philharmonic Society, the first artist manager to receive this accolade. Martin continues to play an important role as consultant to the company, and in August 2014 Robert took on the position of Assistant Manager Artistic at The Metropolitan Opera in New York.