Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the New World Symphony and James Conlon

Jan. 13, 2015 | Reviews

Canadian violinist James Ehnes...gave a terrific performance of Mendelssohn’s concerto Saturday night at the Arsht Center in Miami with the New World Symphony led by guest conductor James Conlon. Of Ehnes’ virtuosity, there was no question, and he played without a trace of effort to disturb the smooth surface. But beyond that he brought an early Romantic sensibility to the performance, playing in an expressive but compact manner that brought out the concerto’s youthful vulnerability and high spirits. With a slender but singing tone, he phrased the plaintive opening melody with intensity and a touch of fragility, inflecting it in a manner that expressed its emotion without larding it with vibrato. The violinist was assertive and vigorous but never rough in the rapid-fire passagework and brought a keen sense of drama to the cadenza, suddenly dropping the volume and raising the speed as he began a series of trills that led up to a climactic passage of chords and arpeggios. In this dark minor-key melody [of the Andante], which climaxes with an ascent in octaves, Ehnes brought to the music a raw emotional intensity rarely heard in Mendelssohn but absolutely convincing in this passage. The last movement was a whirl of light, effortless virtuosity. Rarely will an encore eclipse the main event, but Ehnes’ performance of the Allegro assai from Bach’s Sonata No. 3 for solo violin came close. Although the work never calls for playing on more than a single string at once, Ehnes played it with brilliance, speed and dexterity. Most impressive was his overarching sense of structure, bringing out the polyphonic grandeur of Bach’s music, and showing why the composer’s solo violin works can still amaze after nearly 300 years." (Miami Herald, 12 January 2015)


Bruch Violin Concerto No.1 with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Michael Seal at the Corniche Breakwater in Abu Dhabi

Dec. 16, 2014 | Reviews

“The second piece was dedicated to Ehnes, who stepped on stage to take on Bruch’s ¬Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, op26. The 1866 concerto is renowned for its advanced technicality, with three movements exhibiting disparate moods and pace. The first section had Ehnes slowly making his impression felt. He quietly emerged from behind the flutes with a brisk cadenza, repeating the theme with increasing muscularity. The second movement was rich in melody as the violin introduced new ideas over an orchestra constantly on the move. Ehnes took on a more rhythmic sound on the final section with the violin almost galloping over the orchestra to conclude with a energetic flourish.” (The National, 16 December 2014)


Walton Violin Concerto with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Andrew Litton

Dec. 12, 2014 | Reviews

"The virtuosity and versatility of the Canadian-born violinist James Ehnes is sometimes taken for granted, such is the apparent ease and nonchalance with which he plays. Inviting comparison to the great virtuosos of the past, this afternoon matinee, in which he played the Walton Violin Concerto – written for Jascha Heifetz – with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, was only the first of his two performances that day. In the evening, Ehnes played the Brahms Concerto, dedicated to Joseph Joachim, with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, replacing their stricken soloist. When, on the Symphony Hall stage, conductor Andrew Litton announced that the concert would be broadcast live on Radio 3, Ehnes just raised his eyebrows in surprise and then smiled. Ehnes’s fearless response to both works spoke for itself. The fine balance of Walton’s reflective lyricism and its capricious displays of technique were handled with flair, and the tone that Ehnes produced high on the E string lent a sweetness to the music too often lost in more effortful performances. Litton’s instinct for the jazzy element in Walton’s score added to the scintillating effect." (Guardian, 12 December 2014)

“Ehnes delivered a wonderfully poignant, soul-searching account of the Walton, his rich, full tones seamlessly singing with resigned regret and Litton and the CBSO reciprocated with arching phrasing and piquant interjections.” (Birmingham Post, 10 December 2014)

“Ehnes gave a slender, poignant rendition of Walton's Violin Concerto...his rapid, yet very clean, double-stops and jumps morphed seamlessly into sweet, lyrical lines, whose clear and round sound in the lower and middle register was topped with filigree high notes.” (Bachtrack, 12 December 2014)


Two concertos - Two cities - Two orchestras - One day!

Dec. 10, 2014 | News

All in a day's work! A couple of hours before he was scheduled to go on stage with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at 2:15pm to perform the Walton Violin Concerto, James received a call asking if he could step in that same evening in Liverpool to perform Brahms's Violin Concerto with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Andrew Manze to replace an indisposed soloist. To make matters even more interesting, the RLPO concert was to be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 with no time for rehearsal. Always game for an adventure, James commented on Facebook: “A crazy day today...but two of my favorite concertos with two of my favorite orchestras in the same day...... how could I refuse?”


Prokofiev Violin Concerto No.2 with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Thomas Søndergård

Oct. 13, 2014 | Reviews

“The Canadian James Ehnes was the soloist, and the lovely lyrical first theme on solo violin drew immediate attention to his considerable strengths – clarity of purpose, impeccable intonation, warmth of tone and understated virtuosity…Ehnes is one of those musicians who one senses immediately is there to serve the music, not some kind of Paganinian ego… Balance and sensitivity to the solo line was paramount here, every note from Ehnes ringing out clear as a bell… Ehnes tossed off the skittering scalic moments without batting an eyelid as he raced across the finish line to glory. This was flawless playing, and equally flawless was the Allegro assai from Bach’s Third Solo Sonata, which he offered as a welcome encore.” (Limelight Magazine, 11 October 2014)

“Brilliant Canadian violinist James Ehnes gave a compelling performance of Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No.2 in G minor, Opus 63 with a sound of utmost clarity and blemishless beauty. His playing has transparency and strength yet betrays no hint of undue forcefulness or harshness. The brooding opening of the first movement was purely shaped and musically cogent, while the second movement found a serenity rare in 20th-century works. The closest to anything boisterous came in the finale with its rustic double-stopped theme but Prokofiev ends with the stark originality of bare plucked chords.” (Sydney Morning Herald, 12 October 2014)