Apr. 6, 2015 | News
"The most effective work was Aaron Jay Kernis’s Two Movements (with Bells) for Violin and Piano, from 2007. The piece was written for Ehnes, and together with Armstrong he gave it a moving, virtuosic reading. The bells of the title are not literal, but the piano often hints at them, calling them in from a distance to accompany the violin. Kernis’s writing is strikingly violinistic. His long, arching lines show a great level of comfort with the instrument’s lyrical voice, and his more fiery passages, while technically demanding, never seem to be awkward for the player. The result is breathtakingly expressive, working with the violin’s natural strengths rather than against them. Kernis’s earnest, straightforward tonality feels familiar, but not saccharine. The violin searches, wandering in the direction of a melody, calling to mind shades of Prokofiev in the opening strain of the second movement, 'A song for my Father.'” (New York Classical Review, 3 April 2015)
“Mr. Ehnes and Mr. Armstrong joined forces for Mr. Kernis’s work, which opens with a burst of speed and bright sound. The second movement, “A Song for My Father,” features a poignant violin melody, which Mr. Ehnes played with great tenderness. There are brief echoes of jazzy dance music before the sound grows distant and disembodied, with Mr. Ehnes producing harmonics that sounded at times like a theremin.” (New York Times, 3 April 2015)
Apr. 1, 2015 | News
Congrats to James Ehnes on being shortlisted as Instrumentalist of the year for the RPS Awards. Presented by the Royal Philharmonic Society in association with BBC Radio 3, the awards celebrate outstanding achievement by artists and organisations in classical music in 2014. Winners will be announced at a ceremony at The Brewery in London on Tuesday 5 May 2015. Visit the RPS Awards website for a look at the full shortlist
Mar. 31, 2015 | News
"James Ehnes and Gloria Chien gave an elegant, unhurried interpretation of this delightful work [Mozart’s A-major Violin Sonata] that emphasized lyricism…Ehnes’s tone is consistently sweet, smooth, and true, and he was evenly matched by Chien’s eloquently plain-spoken phrasing and pearlescent tone.” (Classical Source, 30 March 2015)
“Mr. Ehnes and pianist Gloria Chien established themselves at once as asimpatico duo; throughout their rendering of Mozart's Sonata in A major for Violin and Piano, K. 526 (1787), they showed an acuity of dynamic sensibility that really drew me in. Regarded as Mozart's last significant violin sonata, the music calls for harmonious elegance of delivery, and the Ehnes/Chien partnership embraced it with lyrical affinity. In the central andante, their sense of the music's intimacy was particularly appealing, and Mr. Ehnes's ability to sustain long tones with a silken softness was impressive. Ms. Chien's fluidity of scale passages propelled the concluding Presto to its sparkling conclusion.” (Oberon’s Grove, 31 March 2015)
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)