February 2, 2016 | News
James is up for two JUNO Awards for his two latest CDs on Onyx Classics: Best Classical Album: Solo or Chamber Ensemble for his recording of Franck and Strauss Sonatas with Andrew Armstrong and Best Classical Album: Large Ensemble or Soloist(s) with Large Ensemble for his recording of Vivaldi: The Fours Seasons with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Andrew Armstrong. The awards will be handed out at a ceremony in Calgary on April 2.
January 25, 2016 | Reviews
"In the beginning there was Bach, and James Ehnes. You couldn’t ask for a more illustrious start to a festival...an eloquent reading of Bach’s solo Violin Sonata in G Minor. Music lovers drank in Ehnes’ performance — the purity of his phrasing, the precision of his intonation and the power of his interpretation. Clean, elegant lines and effortless playing made listeners forget what an athletic feat it really is to play at this level, with four Bach movements culminating in a sizzling, speedy finale that pushed at the boundaries of what is possible on the violin. The music waxed and waned so naturally, and Ehnes made this lyrical virtuosity sound so easy. The audience responded with an ovation that made it clear everyone was well aware they were hearing something rare and spectacular. The concert that followed brought Ehnes back to the stage, this time with pianist Andrew Armstrong, in a sonata from the other end of the violin spectrum: Bartok’s searing Sonata No. 1, a work of tremendous intensity and rough-hewed energy. Contrast was the key here, with Ehnes refining his sound in the second movement down to a mere thread before the two players launched into the wild, violent ride of the final allegro." (Seattle Times, 23 January 2016)
November 17, 2015 | Reviews
"From the moment violinist James Ehnes and his colleagues took the stage at Coral Gables Congregational Church, the quartet offered finely chiseled ensemble playing and probing interpretive visions of the many sided master from Bonn. The String Quartet No. 5 in A Major is youthful Beethoven, rich in melody and spirited invention. The players’ vigorous attack at the onset of the initial Allegro never abated throughout the movement. A lovely Allegretto was unhurried and aristocratic with the sudden abrupt chords that interrupt the main theme, a Haydnesque joke, given emphatic weight. Ehnes, a superb soloist in his own right, gave a formidable display of virtuosity in the Andante cantabile but his soaring tone blended seamlessly with second violin Amy Schwartz Moretti...
The opening chords of the Quartet No. 11 in F Major announce a different Beethoven. Despite the relentless tempo throughout the stormy and dramatic first movement, the players’ tone remained evenly balanced and devoid of roughness. Richard O’Neill’s deep viola sonority shone impressively in the second movement, firm and strongly present while always finely blended...
The Quartet No. 15, Op. 132 is Beethoven’s penultimate complete chamber work. Robert DeMaine’s warm, suave cello sound launched the dark, mysterious introduction. Changes of meter were smoothly achieved and the four musicians’ sonority was almost orchestral in the ensuing Allegro, the playing fired up and full of vitality. The Molto Adagio third movement is the score’s heart. This is Beethoven at the pinnacle of his creative powers, despite deafness and illness, searching for higher means of expression. The Ehnes foursome brought out the music’s ethereal beauty, allowing the long phrases to unfold quietly and slowly without exaggerated emphasis, a pitfall in many less musically astute renditions. Sweeping contrasts between a robust march and energtic Allegro Appassionato completed a performance of rare distinction that combined awesome technique with a strong sense of the score’s elegiac darkness. In response to a standing, shouting ovation, the quartet lightened up with a bright reading of the final movement of Beethoven’s early Quartet No. 4 that nicely combined vigor with a touch of charm and whimsy." (South Florida Classical Review, 17 November 2015)
November 16, 2015 | Reviews
"It is evident that they know each other very well - one can hear the shared intensity of emotion...their “Death and the Maiden” was infinitely dramatic; throughout the four movements, we heard different rhythms, at times dark, at times quiet, at times compelling. Their playing released a power that went far beyond the notes, a sort of battle between life and death symbolised by the music…the final ‘presto’, already fast at the beginning, went even faster in the ‘coda’ but the celebrated momentum did not stop, the musicians launched a race against death and it was life that triumphed with the final chords...the final movement of Dvorak’s ‘American Quartet’, performed as the encore, overflowed with life, with one rhythm – blithely joyful and cheerfully seductive." (Resmusica, 16 November 2015)
October 28, 2015 | Reviews
"the Beethoven Violin Concerto, with soloist James Ehnes, was elegant...Ehnes’ refined, nuanced playing was a good fit with de Waart’s rarefied approach. At time Ehnes’s playing almost sounded wistful." (San Diego Union Tribune, 24 October 2015)
"Ehnes imbued the Beethoven Violin Concerto with a level of refinement and consistently lustrous tone that was almost too good to be true. Perhaps because his poise and deft treatment of every flourish was so breathtaking, de Waart subtly emphasized the composer’s harmonic provocations in the orchestra to balance the equation. Ehnes’ fleet, jocund account of the Rondo finale served as his encore." (San Diego Story, 24 October 2015)
"Violinist James Ehnes played the Beethoven Violin Concerto and it was as creamy as could be... I could have listened to the cadenza all day long. Ehnes, as a performer, was quiet in his body and facial expression. There were none of the pained grimaces of constipation which some, not all--but some, solo violinists employ. Ehnes’s playing was mesmerizing in and of itself. We didn’t need to see him “feeling it.” The tone and quality of his playing took care of it all." (San Diego Reader, 26 October 2015)