Mar. 30, 2014 | News
James cleaned up at the 2014 JUNO Awards this weekend held in Winnipeg, winning both of the categories in which he was nominated: Classical Album of the Year: Solo or Classical for his double-disc recording Prokofiev: Complete Works for Violin (Chandos) and Classical Album of the Year: Large Ensemble or Soloist(S) With Large Ensemble Accompaniment for his James Ehnes: Britten & Shostakovich: Violin Concertos (Onyx Classics).
The weekend’s haul brings James’s JUNO tally to nine and makes him the most JUNO-decorated classical artist. Performances with the Nashville Symphony precluded James from attending the event, but his thoughts were still at home:
“I'm thrilled and honored to have won Juno awards for these two projects that are both so close to my heart. I want to thank my wonderful and inspiring collaborators Andrew Armstrong, Amy Schwartz Moretti, Gianandrea Noseda, and Kirill Karabits as well as the amazing BBC Philharmonic and Bournemouth Symphony. I only wish I could be in my home province of Manitoba to celebrate! Winnipeg knows how to party, and from what I hear this Juno week has been one of the best ever. It certainly has been for me!”
Mar. 14, 2014 | News
"It may be possible to play the Bartók Violin Concerto No. 2 better than Ehnes did on Thursday evening, but frankly, I don’t think so. On every level — brilliance of technique, depth of interpretation, ensemble accuracy, and an obvious bone-deep love for the music — Ehnes lifted the concerto to dizzying heights, along with partnership from guest maestro André de Ridder. This is music Ehnes has long performed, and also recorded, and it is in his heart as well as his fingers...The supercharged Bartók...not surprisingly, got a huge audience reaction."
(Seattle Times, 14 March 2014)
Feb. 04, 2014 | News
Announced at a press conference today, James's Prokofiev 2CD set (Chandos) is nominated in the category of Classical Album of the Year: Solo or Chamber Ensemble and his recording of concertos by Britten and Shostakovich (Onyx Classics) is nominated in the category of Classical Album of the Year: Large Ensemble or Soloist(s) with Large Ensemble Accompaniment. The awards will be handed out at ceremonies on March 29 & 30 in Winnipeg. Check back for updates!
Jan. 12, 2014 | Reviews
“With Ehnes’s duo partner suddenly taken ill, that Strad came centre-stage for Ehnes’s substitute solo programme: two of Bach’s greatest violin works, Partitas 2 and 3. And one saw immediately what he was talking about: the sound was rich, bright, and muscular as he launched into the tumbling figurations of the opening Prelude. His playing was exemplarily clean, with beautifully-handled echo effects.” (Independent, 7 January 2014)
“The Wigmore Hall acoustic is ideal for such works. Ehnes projected a beautiful sound to the back of the venue with ease. He was aided by very careful attention to dynamic detail, emphasising the lovely echo effects in the ‘call and response’ passages of the ‘Prelude’ of the E major Partita. With complete accuracy, not least regards tuning, he was able to focus intently on his spacious interpretations. Ehnes’s Bach is unfussy, often rhythmically straight and ‘as written’ but always keen to bring out the music’s dance elements. The ‘Gavotte en Rondeau’ of BWV1006 skipped most attractively, with a rustic feel, while there was an incisive snap to the rhythms of the D minor Partita’s ‘Corrente’ and a poise to the ‘Giga’, notable also for exceptional clarity. Playing from memory, Ehnes demonstrated his affinity for Bach’s music, his instinctive playing guiding the works fluently through even the trickiest of arpeggio sequences. The D minor Partita, the more solemn of the two played here, was a cloud to the sunlight of its E major counterpart. Ehnes invested the ‘Prelude’ with a touching seriousness before exploring the dissonance of the ‘Sarabande’, ever more inward and personal, and subsiding to a mere whisper. Multiple-stopped passages were lucid, although, but for a couple of exceptions, repeats were eschewed, but this did not harm the structural flow of the music. And so, inevitably, we arrived at the great ‘Chaconne’ with which BWV1004 closes. Ehnes played it with great virtuosity, but always musically rather than for display. Forthright and powerful, it grew as a large tapestry, each idea woven to the previous one with impressive surety.” (Classical Source, 7 January 2014)
“[In] the great Chaconne, the concluding movement which, in addition to lasting the length of the previous four put together, is one of the most miraculous of all masterpieces. Ehnes, on a perfectly fitting 1715 Stradivarius and using a restrained amount of vibrato, played with purity and an unfailing sense of line. The extended string crossing had a silken simplicity. OK, OK, it's early January and I'm already heading for superlative and cliche, but if I hear nothing better in 2014 I still will have done well.” (Observer, 12 January 2014)
Dec. 13, 2013 | Reviews
James Ehnes displayed colour and control in a staggeringly powerful performance of Shostakovich's First Violin Concerto: "At the heart of this concert by Donald Runnicles and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra was a staggeringly powerful performance of Shostakovich's First Violin Concerto, with playing so eloquent and direct from Canadian violinist James Ehnes that it almost eclipsed the rest of the programme. ...it was Ehnes's soulful, impeccable, engulfing Shostakovich that made this concert unforgettable. His control and range of colour were masterful: the sound was woody and dark, at turns urgent, mournful and vulnerable; and the long, troubled phrases that underpin the Concerto unfurled as if without a beginning or an end. The cadenza was devastatingly frank and seemed to consume him. The orchestra responded with icy quiet passages, heartbreaking tenderness in the passacaglia and flashes of hot brutality. The performance prompted a rare standing ovation, and rightly so." (Guardian, 13 December 2013)
"It was the Shostakovich Concerto – or, more specifically, Canadian violinist James Ehnes’s astonishingly intense performance – that proved the evening’s revelation. It’s one of the Soviet composer’s “for the drawer” works – written as Shostakovich was coming under attack for anti-state formalism by Stalin's Politburo henchmen, hence hidden and only revealed once artistic conditions had thawed a little. And with its unremittingly bleak, grotesque music, it’s hardly the most immediately approachable concerto – which made Ehnes’s unforgettable performance all the more remarkable. He plotted the course of the first-movement Nocturne’s endless melody with expert precision, and seemed to deliver the bitterly ironic second-movement Scherzo – full of violin pyrotechnics, which he negotiated with calm brilliance – through gritted teeth. He was unshowy yet technically flawless, and he offered the music with touching sincerity and a deep seriousness. There are few violinists around who can make that concerto speak so directly – no wonder the audience was on its feet at the end." (Daily Telegraph, 13 December 2013)
"Standing ovations simply don’t happen very often on a Thursday night at the BBC SSO, which is nothing to do with the quality of performances, just the nature of this particular Glasgow audience. So when they do jump to their feet it has to have been for something extra special, which itself is almost too feeble a way to describe the performance last night by Canadian soloist James Ehnes of Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No 1, under the baton of Donald Runnicles. It was the centrepiece of a substantial programme – surrounded either side by Beethoven’s Symphony No 4 and John Adams’ City Noir – but in its own right was an entirely consuming experience in every possible sense. From the aching rumination of the opening nocturne to the dizzy exuberance of the finale, Ehnes’ vast and effortless mahogany tone cut a swathe that breathed soul and character into every moment. There was devilish excitement in the scherzo, suppressed ecstasy in the slow inexorability of the passacaglia, and jaw-dropping virtuosity in the absorbing cadenza." (Scotsman, 13 December 2013)