James "Wows" Winnipeg as Soloist & Conductor

May 27, 2010 | Review


"[Ehnes] lit up the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra stage for its season finale Tuesday night, wowing the crowd with his dazzling virtuosity and an easy charm... The program opened with Beethoven's Romance No. 1, in G major, Op. 40 bathed in languorous romanticism...with Ehnes handling its more difficult double stops with aplomb while setting a leisurely tempo. His honey-sweet tone made this piece sing with his impossibly long bowing always firmly in control. Vivaldi's The Four Seasons gave the crowd a taste of Ehnes's renowned bravura. We know Ehnes can play like a demon, but what became even more fascinating was seeing him trade in his violin bow completely for baton during Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings in C Major, Op. 48. ...this concert marked the first time we have seen him lead the orchestra without fiddle in hand...what became fascinating was seeing him now use the orchestra as an extension of his own musicality. It's a testament to his skill and clarity of vision that the MCO players were responsive as his fabled $4.5 million Stradivarius (1715) violin." Read More
(Winnipeg Free Press, 27 May 2010)




 


James "makes it look easy" in Ottawa

May 22, 2010 | Review


"Canadian violinist James Ehnes is one of the world’s foremost practitioners of his instrument. He has even been compared to the legendary Jascha Heifitz and indeed there are similarities. Technical difficulties never seem to faze him and he has a commanding stage presence. Unlike Heifitz, though, Ehnes has a ready smile, a warm, animated stage manner and, to this listener’s ears at least, more musical warmth. Prokofiev’s Second is possibly the hardest concerto in the standard repertoire. It’s also possible Ehnes played it as well as it has ever been played. His rendition had everything from the heart-stopping beauty of the soaring melodies in the second movement to the most dazzling brilliance and colour, all the while expressing the touches of black humour that occur so frequently in the score."
(Ottawa Citizen, 22 May 2010)




 


"An exceptional pairing of piano, violin": James and Jamie Parker in Recital to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Jeunesses Musicales

May 20, 2010 | Review


"They opened their recital with a poised, lyrical account of Beethoven’s Romance in G, both players capturing effortlessly, as one mind, the simple strength of the composer’s design. Ehnes then went on alone to play J. S. Bach’s Partita in E, No. 3...Ehnes had it immaculately in hand. His skill is so secure, his ear so acute, that he is free to project the essence, the rare euphony of the music itself, without impediment or shortcoming. The duo finished with a work that exhibited and tested its true mettle as a natural team: Schumann’s late Sonata in A minor, Op. 105. Here again, Ehnes and Parker achieved an unshadowed, uncluttered accord. Their rhythms, and their inflections of those rhythms, were out of the same unerring instinct and a twinned impulse. The opening movement was an exciting interlocked flight, full of contrast, light and shade. The gentle second movement, confiding, questioning, was transparently candid and fine. The third movement, launched as a hotfoot perpetuum mobile, then dispersing in an arresting kaleidoscope of Schumannesque fantasy, put the players through a whole range of challenges to unanimity. But neither put a finger wrong. They seemed even to breathe together. What a pleasure. "
(Globe and Mail, 20 May 2010)




 


Beethoven's Triple Concerto with Menahem Pressler, Antonio Meneses, the OSM and Kent Nagano

May 7, 2010 | Review


"The first part of the concert was an absolute delight. The venerable Menahen Pressler, 86 years old, and Antonio Meneses, members of the Beaux Arts Trio for ten years (dissolved in 2008), were joined by James Ehnes in the Triple Concerto with light touch and total collaboration. The Triple Concerto, notoriously tricky and which has seen more failure than success, was transformed yesterday into a spiritually joyful experience. The ‘not-quite’ Beaux Arts (trio) prolonged the pleasure, just for the beauty of Art, with Beethoven’s Finale of the Trio, Op. 1, No. 1, full of humour and life."
(Le Devoir, 6 May 2010)

"The OSM couldn't have gotten much better soloists...Canadian violinist James Ehnes...much younger, fit in with brilliance and warmth. In the opening Allegro, the trio's playing...had the comfort of familiarity with both the music and each other...in the slow movement, Largo...the playing was tender and luscious. In the final Rondo alla Polacca...rich and lyrical flamboyance closed the work. Wednesday's audience response to the trio was so immediate and enthusiastic that Pressler, Ehnes and Meneses played an encore. They were just delightful, as well as musically satisfying in a final movement of a Beethoven piano trio."
(Time Argus, 7 May 2010)

"Precise, expressive and sparkling, the violin of James Ehnes was truly worthy of this eminent guest (Menahem Pressler)."
(La Presse, 6 May 2010)




 


Bruch's Scottish Fantasy with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Claus Peter Flor

May 1, 2010 | Review


"One could only wonder if there's a finer violinist alive than James Ehnes. Here were luminous tone and impeccable technique, but also a generosity of expression that matched Flor's. Both musicians daringly stretched phrases here and there, but always to the most musical ends."
(Dallas Morning News, 29 April 2010)

"The Fantasy proved once again that Ehnes, who at 34 has established himself in the top ranks of violinists of the day, owns a particularly beautiful tone across the range."
(D Magazine, 30 April 2010)

"[The] Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra...could not have been in better hands than the brilliant Canadian violinist James Ehnes. His sound was gorgeous from beginning to end... His bowing, vibrato, control and intonation combine to make the secret sauce that takes his impeccable technique to a much higher level than mere virtuosity. His bowing deserves a repeated mention. This was a definitive performance that even elevated the score itself a level or two."
(Theater Jones, 30 April 2010)

"With the superb violinist James Ehnes added to the mix, this was one of the season’s high points. Ehnes, who made a brilliant impression in Fort Worth recently, was the soloist in Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy. This work hardly qualifies as a masterpiece, but in the sure hands of Flor and Ehnes, whose gorgeous tone combines lyrical beauty with technical mastery, who could complain?"
(Art & Seek, 29 April 2010)




 


A "charismatic" and "impeccable" Barber concerto with the Houston Symphony Orchestra

Apr. 10 2010 | Review


"The Canadian fiddler possesses a gorgeous, penetrating tone across all ranges and, as evidenced by his phenomenal recordings of the Paganini Caprices, endless technical facility. To cap things off, the subtle variegations of his playing were constantly on display, whether in the infinite varieties of speed and width of vibrato, or in his willingness to play with a gruff, exciting au talon attack when needed."
(ConcertoNet, 10 April 2010)




 


James Ehnes takes on Glasgow!

Mar. 29, 2010 | Review


Britten's Violin Concerto with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
"The intense solo line wears its colours on its sleeve and violinist James Ehnes was more than able to meet its many demands. Runnicles kept a tight rein over the metrically driven opening movement, leaving Ehnes to explore the romance in the music. Perhaps most impressive of all, however, was Ehnes's cadenza towards the end of the frantic Vivace. Mastery of Britten's significant physical and technical demands is certainly not easy, but to take this material and craft it to reflect the painful lyricism that lies at its core demonstrated a complete and true understanding of the work."
(Scotsman, 27 March 2010)

"Ehnes and Runnicles achieved a completely integrated performance of music... Ehnes’s execution of the cadenza that concludes that movement made the piece seem a very natural choice for a young man whose reputation has recently been enhanced by his recording of Paganini’s Caprices.
(Herald, 28 March 2010)

In Recital with Andrew Armstrong at City Halls in Glasgow
"[Ehnes] delighted his audience with a show of world-class technique and thrilling musicianship. …we got a banquet of Schumann, Bach and Beethoven, programmed to show Ehnes is capable of anything…he has a crystal-clear tone that marries beautifully with solo pieces such as the much-loved Partita in E major. Not afraid to show his rougher side, he gave a no-holds-barred account of both the Schumann and the Beethoven sonatas, alongside his pianistic partner Andrew Armstrong, similar both in youthful looks and virtuosic command."
(Herald, 28 March 2010)




 


In Recital with pianist Andrew Armstrong in Montréal (Ladies' Morning Musical Club)

Mar. 23, 2010 | Review


"Impeccable intonation, clean onsets, light tone and subtle, steady vibrato: these were givens. In Schumann's Sonata Op. 105, there was the less overt virtue of a fresh rather than overwrought approach to the composer's ardent romanticism. In Bach's Partita No. 3 in E Major, we could admire the subtle gradations of volume and spirited forward momentum. Juxtapositions of storm and calm, in Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata, were mesmerizingly precise. Stressed notes did not disrupt the fluid sense of line. Even the crisp plucked notes of the variations were virtuoso utterances."
(Montreal Gazette, 23 March 2010)

"James Ehnes and his new pianist, Andrew Armstrong, gave an exceptionally high quality recital yesterday afternoon at the LMMC. From the moment of his entry on the stage, the young Manitoba violinist was greeted like a pop-star by the full hall... He achieves a sonority of such beauty that words cannot describe it. He also performed his whole program with a complete mastery: irreproachable intonation, clean articulation, intelligent musicality and imaginative phrasing. The pianist’s performance was equal to that of the violinist, like a real chamber musician, which gave us a continuously stimulating dialogue, an intense and refined Schumann Sonata op. 105 and a dramatic, piercing Beethoven Kreuzer Sonata."
(La Presse, 22 March 2010)




 


Richard Strauss’ Violin Concerto with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and Gerard Schwarz

Feb. 11, 2010 | Review


“In the able hands of soloist James Ehnes, Strauss’ youthful concerto blossomed into something quite remarkable. His noble tone, interpretive finesse, and fabulous fingers polished up this rough gem. Ehnes poured on the beautifully shaped tone in the lyrical second movement, and tossed off the technical challenges of the finale, including immaculate double stops and exquisite bow control (the bow returns were almost imperceptible, even on an open string).
(KING FM, 5 February 2010)

“We were treated to a rare hearing of Richard Strauss’ Violin Concerto..., a work that provides a refreshing change from some 19th-century violin concertos of greater fame, especially when it is played by a soloist of James Ehnes’s prodigal gifts of technique and expression. The quicksilver finale can give Mendelssohn’s and Tchaikovsky’s similarly paced finales a run for their money, and it was thrown off by Ehnes with thrilling aplomb and the purest of tone.”
(Seen and Heard, 11 February 2010)




 


Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Vladimir Ashkenazy

Feb. 2, 2010 | Review


“James Ehnes, whose Philharmonia partnership with Andrew Davis in the Elgar Concerto was one of my highlights of the musical noughties, kept up impeccable intonation and never dropped a stitch in a work whose non-stop demands always take me by surprise. He knew when to give a bit more space to the fierier moments, but never sacrificed musical sense and line to virtuosity. The same was true of the Paganini Sixteenth Caprice he bent to his intelligent will as an encore.”
(ArtsDesk, 1 February 2010)

“How warming for a full house to see veteran Russian maestro Vladimir Ashkenazy and rising-star Canadian violinist James Ehnes side by side. Their connection through music, in this case Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, was a pleasure to share. The violin concerto is one of those almost all-too-familiar pieces that needs a sparkling, live performance to remind us why it’s so popular. And Ehnes gave us just that on Saturday. Each note crystal clear – no fudges, no smudges, but precision and passion. His encore, a Paganini Caprice, was a bonus.”
(Coventry Telegraph, 2 February 2010)

“The absolute highlight of the evening was James Ehnes’s performance of Mendelssohn’s violin concerto. Ehnes’s performance brought out both the passionate quality of much of Mendelssohn’s writing, the sheer wit of other passages, and the meditative inwardness of the andante. Ehnes was playing the “Ex Marsick” Stradivarius of 1715, and he drew from it sounds of extraordinary tonal beauty, always in the service of the work itself. In short, Ehnes gave us pretty well everything one could want in a performance of the work – subtlety, delicacy, emotional range, long lines, beautiful (but not self-indulgent or attention-seeking) phrasing, glittering passage work, immense fluency and extraordinary tonal range. Mendelssohn’s skilful transitions were adroitly managed and the sheer sparkle and fizz of the third movement were generated by soloist and conductor alike. Altogether this was an outstanding performance. It received - understandably – such applause that Ehnes gave the audience an unaccompanied encore, in the form of Paganini’s Caprice No.16. The technical demands clearly presented no problems to Ehnes, whether in the form of string skipping, chromatic slurs or complex arpeggios; indeed as he negotiated the first few bars with remarkable panache, I noticed a jaw or two drop amongst the orchestral violinists. Remarkable.”
(Seen and Heard, 2 February 2010)




 


At home for Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in a benefit concert for the Sarasota Orchestra

Jan. 18, 2010


“James Ehnes' performance of Mendelssohn's superb Violin Concerto in E Minor eclipsed both Mozart and Levin, probably a rare occurrence. The rich sound of his fine 1715 Stradivarius violin was the perfect medium for both the composer's lyric gifts and the technical elegance Ehnes possesses, matched in abundance by the orchestra. A performance as fine as this is rare under any circumstances. That it was part of a program that also included Levin's witty Mozart was a great gift.”
(Sarasota Herald-Tribune, January 18, 2010)




 


Friends of Chamber Music concert in Miami, Florida with Valentina Lisista and Andres Diaz

Jan. 6, 2010 | Review


"From the opening of the Ravel, it was clear that Ehnes and Diaz had a strong musical rapport. In the lyric passages of the first movement, they were as in sync as if they were playing a single instrument, and as the work turned savage and percussive in the second movement, they did so with the same degree of brutal energy."
(South Florida Classical Review, 6 January 2010)




 


“Ehnes Week in Toronto”! Prokofiev's Violin Concerto with the TSO & Stéphane Denève and in recital with Andrew Armstrong

Nov. 30, 2009 | Review


"The highlight was Ehnes's exceptional, seamless mix of lyricism and power in Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2. Between his magic bow and Denève's finely tuned baton, parts of the second movement became an ethereal waltz that carried us into another dimension."
(Toronto Star, 27 November 2009)

"[Ehnes’s] playing is phenomenal, his poise is absolute, his grasp of style is impeccable...with the brilliant young American pianist Andrew Armstrong as partner. The fabulous Kreutzer Sonata of Beethoven, in a minutely detailed, superbly proportioned, dazzlingly executed performance by the two players…The opening movement, with its initial, magisterial adagio, its propulsive presto, and its return to adagio in the serene coda, was at once cogent and lyrical. The elegant middle movement, with its andante and four luminous variations, rounded off by the long, thoughtful coda, was entrancing. And the arduous presto finale was technically emancipated and absolutely hair-raising, with both players flying free at full stretch.”
(Globe and Mail, 30 November 2009)




 


Barber's Violin Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Stéphane Denève

Nov. 14, 2009 | Review


"Ehnes is a wonderfully musical player. He found expressive meaning in nooks and crannies of the first movement that usually go overlooked. He's got a gorgeous tone."
(Philadelphia Inquirer, 14 November 2009)




 


James Records Paganini's 24 Caprices

Nov. 01, 2009 | Review


"This CD contains some of the most jaw-droppingly breath-taking violinistic fireworks you are ever likely to hear. This review will become a list of superlatives and I'll be reaching for my thesaurus before long to find another word for extraordinary...for sustained listening and a greater sense of the music as an organic whole I find Ehnes to be without equal. A marvellous, amazing, stunning, spectacular, fabulous, awe-inspiring, fabulous - only half-way through the Microsoft office thesaurus but I'll leave out cool and groovy - piece of music-making."
CD OF THE MONTH (MusicWeb International, November 2009) - READ THE FULL REVIEW

"He revisits [the 24 Caprices] with the experience of more than a decade, with new subtleties, fire, honed energy and a mature insight into the way Paganini could captivate his audiences not merely with acrobatic feats but also with a liquid lyricism and a spectrum of dynamic shadings that gave you his playing heart-stopping eloquence. You only have to listen to Ehnes in the slow sixth caprice in G minor, with its melodic line carried on a bed of shimmering trills, to appreciate, far from being a mere finger-testing study, the music has palpable shape and encapsulates poetic feeling. Elshewhere, as in the ninth caprice, Ehnes's full, rounded tone and emphasis in the 'hunting call' figuration are beautifully contrasted with ideas of delicate shading. This is a wonderful set that shows Paganini and Ehnes as masters or both technique and expression."
CD OF THE WEEK (Daily Telegraph, 17 October 2009)

"No collection of virtuoso showpieces demands greater technical prowess than Paganini's 24 Caprices. Yet James Ehnes, whose artistry suggests that in Paganini's age he would have enjoyed similar stature to the great man, succeeds impressively in being more than merely thrilling. He realises that, extravagant though some of the music's gestures are, this is not simply a high-wire act. Listen to his control of colour, dynamic and articulation in the Sixth Caprice, where Paganini achieves the illusion of a cantabile line accompanied by tremolando chords. It's playing of phenomenal control, allied to musicianship of the highest order."
(The Times, 25 October 2009)

"Ehnes gives a performance that balances bel canto refinement with an almost Beethovenian heroism. Technically, this is faultless. The spiccato is crisp, the octaves dazzling. Even more impressive is the melodic sweetness."
(The Independent, 11 October 2009)




 


Korngold's Violin Concerto with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Bramwell Tovey

Oct. 18, 2009 | Review


"Soloist James Ehnes handled both the concerto's technical challenges and its long lyrical lines with equal ease. The sensuous music of the second movement was beautifully rendered, and Ehnes made the most of the third movement's great tune and opportunity to show off in a memorable performance."
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 18 October 2009)




 


Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

Oct. 07, 2009 | Review


"The Tchaikovsky war horse had the distinct advantage of a young, exceptionally sensitive rider on this occasion. Canadian-born, Grammy-winning violinist James Ehnes revealed a refreshing concentration on the actual music in the concerto -- no show-off tricks or unduly fussy tempos. Everything flowed with a natural elegance and, in the most songful passages, great eloquence. Ehnes’ tone had both sweetness and body, easily holding its own against the orchestral forces, which Alsop guided surely. She and the ensemble sounded as fully caught up in this familiar concerto as the soloist, and the result was a remarkably involving performance."
(Baltimore Sun, 2 October 2009)