Beethoven Violin Concerto with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Edward Gardner

November 28, 2016 | News

"Well, the great Ludwig had reckoned without James Ehnes, a violinist in a class of his own. The Canadian musician’s polite, unassuming manner belies his brilliant artistry. His piercing clarity and sweet lyricism made this a Beethoven Violin Concerto to remember." (The Times, November 2016)


Strauss Violin Concerto with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Sir Andrew Davis

August 12, 2016 | News

"That always-welcome soloist, James Ehnes?, returned to resuscitate Strauss' brilliant Violin Concerto in D minor, a product of the composer's teenage years but loaded with enough virtuosity to keep Ehnes busy and a rich-if-lumpy orchestration to back his efforts. The surrounding framework of Strauss' concerto may be leaden in format but Ehnes dazzled through his warm passion as the work's focal point: razor-keen for the Allegro, maintaining a glowing warmth in his non-stop slow movement, then switching to snappy brilliance for the finale. Throughout this work – as with pretty well everything we have heard from him in live performance – Ehnes demonstrated unflappable authority, surging past Strauss' obstacles as though they didn't exist. In short, an exhilarating experience to be relished."(The Age, 12 August 2016)


Ehnes String Quartet: Complete Beethoven String Quartets in Seoul, Korea

July 1, 2016 | News

The Ehnes Quartet began performance of the historic Complete String Quartets by Beethoven on June 25, 2016.

The Ehnes Quartet, comprised of James Ehnes and Amy Schwartz Moretti (violin), Richard Yongjae O’Neill (viola) and Robert DeMaine (cello), began their first performance by playing a piece from beginning, middle and end section of Beethoven String Quartet Nos. 1, 11, 13, etc. at the iBK Chamber Hall of Seoul Arts Center. It was a masterful performance of incredible collaboration.

In the beginning, which was the first movement of Beethoven String Quartet No. 1, the first impression of Ehnes Quartet was light and controlled. The two violins seemed as one. The violin tones of the Ehnes Quartet enraptured the listeners. In the slow second movement, the instruments continued as if privately conversing in whispers to one another. At times it felt as if the instruments were sighing in sorrow. The third movement passed by fluidly and the following fourth movement was exquisite. Each part was clearly different and control of the tempo was also masterful.

Listening to their performance first hand, it leads to the realization that Beethoven had created music that was independent from the influences of Haydn and Mozart even from String Quartet No. 1. The middle section of the String Quartet No. 11 ‘Serioso’ first movement began with a fast tempo. The overall performance of the four instruments seemed to play as one instrument and the tension kept the listener’s gasping for breath. In the second movement, the low tones of the cello resonated. After the third movement, which suggested a struggle, the fourth movement seemed to suggest the dance of a delicate soul.

The finale, Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 13, was grandiose yet mysterious. When the Quartet performed the fifth movement ‘Cavatina’, it was chilling. Reminding the listeners that cavatina means ‘short song’, the modern four string instruments played metaphysical music. In the title co-written by Richard Yongjae O’Neill ‘My and Your Beethoven’, Richard Yongjae O’Neill’s teacher, Irwin Isenberg referred to ‘cavatina’ as “Beethoven’s tears itself”. The performance brought to mind the old man in the book who was moved to tears at hearing this piece. With a magnificence beyond words, the performance exalted listeners.

It was a fine performance where the three elements of performers, program, and music hall were in harmony. It felt as if listeners were experiencing Beethoven’s life. The concentration of the performers and audience continued throughout the entire performance.

The performance of Beethoven’s Complete String Quartet continues today (2pm, 8pm), on July 1 (8pm) and July 3 (2pm, 8pm).

Taehyung Ryu, Music Columnist


Mozart Violin Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Major, K. 207 with the Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra and Michael Francis

June 18, 2016 | News

As James Ehnes began the Violin Concerto No. 1 K207, there were in fact three performers in play on the stage: Mr. Ehnes, the Festival Orchestra, and the Balboa acoustic itself. During the cadenza of the slow movement of the concerto we were treated to the most delicate of examples of the theatre's sound, a crystal clear acoustic with a perfect reverberation and not a hint of echo or bounce. The first notes of the violin part, which occur in the mid-range, and every descent into that and the lower range, revealed the wood of the instrument ever more clearly. Ehnes's sound was never coarse, but rather a rich, substantial tone that seemed to allow us to feel, even smell and taste the sound; it had a scent like old, polished oak, and the texture of sugarcane in our mouths. The calls and responses of the third movement brought eyebrow-raising smiles, like facial choreography. I'm sure I wasn't alone in that. We were dancing to the master's tune. Again, the clarity of each down-bowed attack made the chiff of hair and rosin on string sound almost percussive in the hall, but in the best, most revealing way. The instrument was coming to us, rather than we being uncomfortably close to the instrument. Truly, this was the highlight of the Mozart portion of the evening, and a memorable performance from the artistic director of the Seattle Chamber Music Society." (San Diego Reader, 18 June 2016)


Elgar Violin Concerto with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Peter Oundjian

June 10, 2016 | News

Elgar’s Concerto has been gaining in popularity over the years, and Ehnes, like a matinée idol, was present for the bravura passages in every sense of the word. His tone may not be the most far-reaching, but Ehnes’ artistry was more about exploring the architectural shape of the work rather than building the themes individually. With a bow, he chipped away at the marble until Elgar’s statue stood at the end of the third movement, holding a Windflower. The orchestra, especially during the allegro, was slightly overbearing at times, but Peter Oundjian reined in the strings to allow Ehnes the room to explore the emotional core of the work.(Toronto Star, 10 June 2016)