Glazunov's Violin Concerto (and Mahler's 10th) with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Donald Runnicles

September 30, 2015 | Reviews

“Isn’t it time we just came out and declared James Ehnes one of the greatest violinists of the day? He’s totally free of show business. Time after time he comes on, does the business with the music, as he did on Thursday with a lusciously-melodic account of Glazunov’s Violin Concerto, never misses a beat, and simply plays better than anyone else I know. And he seems such a nice guy. You know what he did on Thursday? After his concerto, he sat himself anonymously among the SSO strings, for the rare opportunity of playing in Mahler 10. Isn’t that lovely?” (Herald Scotland, 25 September 2015)

“James Ehnes paid Glazunov the compliment of taking him seriously, and he produced a beautifully cogent sound, full of cantabile tone and dazzling technique that almost felt wasted on the Russian’s music! Only at the end of the Mahler did I notice him sitting at the back of the first violins: he had sneaked in and played the whole symphony as part of the orchestra. Now that, almost more than the concerto, is a testament to his class and modesty.” (Seen & Heard International, 28 September 2015)

“[Ehnes was] a captivating soloist in Glazunov’s Violin Concerto. Ehnes always embraces the spirit of whatever work he is tackling – here, he gamely offered huge, husky low melodies and sultry slides between notes – but he also always sounds absolutely himself. His encore was the presto of Bach’s G minor solo sonata: fast, feather-light and muscular all at once.” (Guardian, 30 September 2015)

“James Ehnes (pictured above) made light work of Glazunov's short Violin Concerto. His playing is rich and precise, even slightly cool, but it was overlaid on an accompaniment that was perfectly judged. His Bach encore, from the G minor Concerto, was astonishing: a blizzard of notes delivered deadpan and with a Gould-like precision.” (ArtsDesk, 28 September 2015)

“a performance of Glazunov’s Violin Concerto that combined technical perfection with glowing, glittering musicality. His Bach encore was a supersonic sensation.” (Scotsman, 26 September 2015)


All-Bartók recital with Andrew Armstrong to open Wigmore Hall's 15-16 season

September 21, 2015 | Reviews

“There was no better place for the Wigmore Hall to begin its season-long Bartók Chamber Music series than with this brilliant recital devoted to works for violin and piano. No one today is better placed to play this music than James Ehnes. A versatile artist, the Canadian violinist has nevertheless made Bartók a speciality and the focus of a big recording project for Chandos. His commanding view of this repertoire allowed him to deliver a perfectly balanced programme reflecting four very different aspects of the composer's art... The Rhapsody No. 1 (1928) shows the composer's mature style and its way of integrating rural material (mostly Transylvanian tunes) into a sophisticated structure, all illuminated by Ehnes's bold and gleaming tone. He was matched in every detail by the imaginative pianism of Andrew Armstrong in a fiery performance... Hungarian dances flicker wistfully, yet this sonata calls for big-boned playing and received it from Ehnes's soaring violin and Armstrong's surging piano... Bartók the modernist was represented here by his elusive yet highly expressive Violin Sonata No. 2, a searching and restless work dedicated to Adila Arányi in 1922. It calls especially for a staggering range of violinistic technique, but both players met its challenges superbly in a vibrant performance.” (Daily Telegraph, 19 September 2015)

"Who could tire of the full, rich tone of Ehnes's 1715 Stradivarius? We heard it first in the folksy dances of the Rhapsody No 1, forcefully delivered. Yet it was the quirky E minor sonata that really scorched our ears. Ehnes's violin effortlessly darted between sweet lyrical sighs and hot gypsy passion. Armstrong's piano sprung its own surprises, mellifluous one moment, spikily showy the next. You could almost see Bartók forming himself in his bubbling crucible. Tonal varieties multiplied in the shape-shifting world of the Second Sonata. In the first movement I loved Ehnes's musing, quiet as a sleeping mouse, pitted against Armstrong's muffled chords; but that was just one moment among many in the work's mysterious carnival. The encore was incredible, too: Bartók's Andante, an early valentine, as candied as Korngold and for this superbly rewarding recital, the perfect goodnight kiss." (The Times, 21 September 2015)


Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with the Grant Park Orchestra and Carlos Kalmar at the Grant Park Music Festival

Ausgut 20, 2015 | Reviews

“The Canadian violinist is an undeniably first-class artist as he showed once again, with playing that was supremely polished and immaculate throughout. Ehnes’ elegant style and the pure, silvery tone of his “Marsick” 1715 Stradivarius often seem best suited to music of Bach, Mozart or Mendelssohn….His strikingly beautiful playing conveyed the serenity and searching rumination of this elevated music, the violinist exploring an array of half-tones and nuanced expression, with equally sensitive support by Kalmar and the orchestra. The Rondo finale provided the requisite payoff with Ehnes’ springy rhythmic bounce in synch with the high spirits, rounded off with an explosive burst of fiddle bravura in the final cadenza. Ehnes received an immediate hug from his conductor and an extended, enthusiastic ovation from the audience.” (Chicago Classical Review, 20 August 2015)


Barber Violin Concerto with the Cleveland Orchestra and Brett Mitchell at Blossom Music Festival

August 4, 2015 | Reviews

“Violinist James Ehnes treat[ed] listeners to a sublime, bountifully expressive performance and coasting to an encore offering of Bach. Ehnes, put plainly, didn't just play the music. He consumed it. Through the opening Allegro he traced the most compelling, eloquent line, only to transform in the Presto into a fierce and dazzling fiddler.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3 August 2015)

“It was clear within a few moments of its beginning that this performance of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, with guest soloist James Ehnes, was going to be something special. Ehnes and Mitchell gave a reading that was uncommonly poetic, striking a balance between the concerto’s lyricism and drama, showing a thorough understanding of Barber’s brand of mid-century American romanticism. Ehnes played with purity of tone but also with yearning richness of the violin’s lower range required by the concerto’s second movement.” (Backtrack, 3 August 2015)


Recital with Steven Osborne at Cottier's Theatre in Glasgow

June 12, 2015 | Reviews

"Ladies and gentlemen, I think we will have absolute unanimity among the capacity crowd that thronged into Cottier's Theatre on Wednesday night for the recital by Canadian violinist James Ehnes and pianist Steven Osborne. Their programme, consisting of the last Violin Sonatas of Beethoven and Brahms (numbers 10 and 3 respectively) was, structurally, a little masterpiece of planning.For sure, I cannot imagine them in better hands. We know both these players well in different contexts. Without understating the import of their greatness, there is a naturalistic, completely unpretentious quality to their performance and musicianship. They come on, down to earth, and do the business every single time; I've never heard either of them give a routine performance. And their playing of Brahms and Beethoven was top-drawer, musically and intellectually: completely stimulating and provocative in that, simply, it made you think again of the composers, their music and their intentions. And I'll tell you this: I cannot remember the last time I saw so many musicians from the orchestras and the community at large attend a concert, on their own night off, to hear other musicians perform. Ehnes and Osborne: musicians' musicians." (Glasgow Herald, 12 June 2015)