Elgar's Violin Concerto with the Vancouver Symphony and Bramwell Tovey

Jun. 18, 2014 | Reviews

“Elgar's Violin Concerto…was the true heart of the evening… Ehnes gave a powerhouse performance. His playing was technically flawless throughout, including the intricate third movement which was performed faster and cleaner than I’ve ever heard it before. More importantly, Ehnes has the full spectrum of colour and dynamics needed to turn the concerto into a true artistic experience. Tovey and the orchestra played with true symphonic energy and richness, but allowed their soloist to be heard throughout. Ehnes returned to give a breathtaking beautiful encore of the Andante from Bach’s second solo violin sonata, and later joined the orchestra at the back of the first violins for the Berlioz and Respighi – no wonder he is such an adored artist in Vancouver! A true tour-de-force from a beloved Canadian artist, an orchestra on sparkling form, and an imaginative, vibrant programme – what better way to close a season?” (Bachtrack, 15 June 2014)

“It’s long and very difficult, yet downplays conventional concerto rhetoric. Emotion trumps dialectics throughout; the work’s most memorable passages include a tender Andante and an exquisite (dare one say enigmatic?) finale. This is not a piece for every soloist or every conductor, but it works magnificently for Ehnes, whose sound and temperament were completely in sync with the piece.” (Vancouver Sun, 15 June 2014)

“One certainly had to be taken by the sheer beauty of the violinist’s playing right from his opening entry — the beautiful long clean lines, the wonderful warm silkiness in the tone, the seamless phrasing. And the staggering technical address, so easily up to the work’s most formidable technical challenges…Ehnes’ technical wizardry in the final movement is well known, and he did not disappoint. It would be almost impossible to visualize any living violinist who could articulate this movement with more clarity and assurance.” (Seen and Heard International, 18 June 2014)


Beethoven's Violin Concerto with the New Jersey Symphony and Jacques Lacombe

Jun. 3, 2014 | Reviews

"James Ehnes proved a technical marvel as the soloist for Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, a much-loved work that carries Mozartian grace but also an intrepid quality. The work’s long, winding, legato lines can have the eloquent charm of a speaker whose words can wrap a listener around his finger. Ehnes — who has a cool, patrician presence — produced a glossy tone as he carefully unfurled them without the slightest ripple disturbing their smoothness. He played with exacting intonation and articulation and flawlessly executed the numerous trills...his sheer virtuosity became mesmerizing." (Star-Ledger, 3 June 2014)

"Tall, slender, James Ehnes cut an elegant figure in black tails and white tie in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. The wealth of trills in the first movement...he dispatched with complete elegance. The energetic Rondo: Allegro came off brilliantly, giving the lie to the misperception that this concerto is introspective, not flashy. The violinist played the cadenzas by Fritz Kreisler.The ensuing standing ovation elicited an encore from the soloist, namely, the third movement from Bach’s “Sonata No. 2 for Unaccompanied Violin.” The audience listened in rapt silence." (Examiner, 31 May 2014)


The Value of Music

Apr. 18, 2014 | News

In his latest blog for the Huffington Post, James discusses the importance of music education for our children.

What is music for? Is it a pastime, a diversion? Is it a luxury, an amusement for the privileged?

Or is it something more?

In our schools, we try to ensure that children are at least given some small introduction to the great artistic accomplishments of history, mainly the classics of the written word. I went to public school, and remember being assigned to read a few Shakespeare plays, a work or two of the ancient Greeks and several of the notable "coming of age" novels of the 20th century.

But never once was I told to listen to a Beethoven symphony.

As a society, we recognize that the written word can be an artistic form of immense emotional power and intellectual value. I cannot imagine a civilized society that did not see the value in educating their young in at least some classic literature. But we ignore the great music that has moved nations and inspired our most profound thinkers to their greatest heights. Why?

Read the full article in the Huffington Post.


James Ehnes and Andrew Armstrong in Recital, featuring the world premiere of Alexina Louie’s “Beyond Time”

Apr. 6, 2014 | Reviews

“From the first note, I knew we were in for a rare treat and this was the case for the entire evening. Individually, they are consummate artists with a prodigious technique; as a team they are unparalleled. The excitement their playing generates is beyond belief… they were impeccable in their teamwork, seeming to breathe together. [In the Leclair] Ehnes gave us clean bowing as well as some spectacular spiccato playing. Both performers had superb dynamic control and sensitive phrasing, from the merest whisper to forte passages. The Brahms Sonata which followed calls for a huge opening, which they gave us; magnificent, bravura piano and soaring, sobbing violin. The second movement had wonderfully lush sounds and gorgeous tone from Ehnes and Armstrong both. The final two movements showed their dazzling technique to the full… I found [“Louie’s “Beyond Time”] completely mesmerizing, not only as a composition, but also from the exciting, energetic performance. The final Sonata, by Richard Strauss, was for me the ultimate performance of the evening. The writing is full of strong rhythms, huge sound from both instruments almost like a wall of sound, melodious, rippling passages and others full of grandeur, challenging the techniques of the musicians, which they met and surpassed.” (Kelowna Daily Courier, 1 April 2014)

“[The Leclair Sonata is] dangerous music to play, for the soloist is so exposed if the technique falters. The trick is to make it sound easy, and that is what Ehnes did, releasing its vibrancy. Once could almost see the dance steps in the music. Ehnes’ approach to Brahms’ Violin Sonata in D minor (the last of his three, completed in 1888) was to treat it unashamedly as a high point of Romantic passion. …the marvellously rich tone, the concentration on maximum expressiveness, the notable dynamic variations in phrases and often in individual notes — suited this approach.” (Edmonton Journal, 3 April 2014)


James wins two JUNO Awards and becomes the most JUNO-decorated classical artist!

Mar. 30, 2014 | News

James cleaned up at the 2014 JUNO Awards this weekend held in Winnipeg, winning both of the categories in which he was nominated: Classical Album of the Year: Solo or Classical for his double-disc recording Prokofiev: Complete Works for Violin (Chandos) and Classical Album of the Year: Large Ensemble or Soloist(S) With Large Ensemble Accompaniment for his James Ehnes: Britten & Shostakovich: Violin Concertos (Onyx Classics).

The weekend’s haul brings James’s JUNO tally to nine and makes him the most JUNO-decorated classical artist. Performances with the Nashville Symphony precluded James from attending the event, but his thoughts were still at home:

“I'm thrilled and honored to have won Juno awards for these two projects that are both so close to my heart. I want to thank my wonderful and inspiring collaborators Andrew Armstrong, Amy Schwartz Moretti, Gianandrea Noseda, and Kirill Karabits as well as the amazing BBC Philharmonic and Bournemouth Symphony. I only wish I could be in my home province of Manitoba to celebrate! Winnipeg knows how to party, and from what I hear this Juno week has been one of the best ever. It certainly has been for me!”