Mar. 15, 2015 | News
James collected his *10th* JUNO Award on Saturday night. His CD of Bartók chamber works (Chandos) won in the category of Classical Album of the Year: Solo or Chamber Music. James was joined on this disc by amazing colleagues Amy Schwartz Moretti, Andrew Armstrong, and Michael Collins. Congratulations to all!
Mar. 13, 2015 | Reviews
"Film composer James Newton Howard has written a fresh-sounding new violin concerto, which received its world premiere performance in the hands of conductor Carl St.Clair, the Pacific Symphony and violinist James Ehnes on Thursday night in Segerstrom Concert Hall. The opening theme recalls Gerswhin’s “Summertime,” with its bluesy tint and lilt. The composer calls the second movement’s theme “a child’s melody” – it is simple and lovely but never saccharine. The finale features a folk-like dance melody that could have come from Bartók or Holst. The entire piece has a kind of pastoral feel to it, of bright sunshine and green meadows.
Though the solo violinist is occasionally called upon to play fast and furious, this is not really a virtuoso showpiece, nor is it a competition between soloist and orchestra. Even the solo cadenzas are more meditative than showy. On first hearing, Howard seems not to have forced anything in the work. If the concerto sometimes sounds like movie music (we all know what that means without being able to define it), it also avoids cliché, is tightly-knit and warmly, not cinematically, orchestrated.
Ehnes, a distinguished Canadian violinist, played the work, surprisingly, from memory...I liked the way he played it all calmly, neatly, honestly. These musicians will record the work this week during concerts and it will join “I Will Plant a Tree” on CD. The second movement of Howard’s work is dedicated to the memory of St.Clair’s son, Cole, as was the first piece on the program, Frank Ticheli’s “Rest,” this version for strings and mixed chorus. A setting of a poem by Sara Teasdale, the hymn-like “Rest” is tightly harmonized and Coplandesque in its simplicity. The Pacific Chorale donated its services for the performance, which was lush and peaceful."
(OC Register, 13 March 2015)
Mar. 7, 2015 | Reviews
“Ehnes dug into the cadenza, one written by violin virtuoso Fritz Kreisler, and tackled a set of sophisticated variations as if channeling them from the master. Ehnes’ economy of arm movement made its blistering passages look natural. He’s worth watching for his trills alone — silky smooth, even and sustained. Ehnes sailed through sustained trills that would cramp most fingers in no time. After the concerto, he rewarded the standing ovation with a Kreisler encore, the Caprice Viennois. Music Director Andrey Boreyko has made good on his promise to bring the Naples Philharmonic into encores this season, and the result was a rarely heard treat.” (Naples Daily News, 7 March 2015)
Feb. 23, 2015 | Reviews
“In Prokofiev’s concerto, however, the clear, elegant playing of violinist Ehnes seemed to put the orchestra on its mettle, as the soloist duetted prettily with individual players in the first movement and meshed as the principal voice in the organ-like orchestral sonorities of the finale. Denève deftly partnered him in weaving the work’s rapt atmosphere. The presence of Ehnes’s violin tone in the large hall seemed as intimate as chamber music, as he effortlessly projected the finest details of Prokofiev’s fantasy-like score. In the piece’s central scherzo, the violinist dazzled with scorching scales, left-hand pizzicato, slashing martellato, and fast, whistling harmonics, all without losing his impeccable cool. Ehnes received, and deserved, the biggest ovation of the night. He obliged with an encore, a tastefully swoony rendition of the Largo from Bach’s Sonata for Solo Violin in C major, BWV 1005.” (Boston Classical Review, 20 February 2015)
“[Ehnes] was as elegant as ever. Ehnes was sheer perfection.” (Musical Intelligencer, 21 February 2015)
Jan. 27, 2015 | Reviews
The 2015 JUNO Award nominations were announced today at a press conference in Toronto and James is once again up for two awards: the final volume of his Bartok project with Chandos, Contrasts, Sonatina and 44 Duos with Michael Collins (clarinet), Amy Schwartz Moretti (violin), and Andrew Armstrong (piano) is nominated in the category of Classical Album of the Year: Solo or Chamber Ensemble and his recording of concertos by Khachaturian and Shostakovich (Onyx Classics) is nominated in the category of Classical Album of the Year: Large Ensemble or Soloist(s) with Large Ensemble Accompaniment. The awards will be handed out at ceremonies on March 14 & 15. Check back for updates!