Aug, 29, 2009 | Review
It's always fun to walk into a classical music concert having never heard the featured soloist - and to walk out wanting to listen to no one else. That's what happened Saturday night after hearing James Ehnes play Beethoven's Violin Concerto. Ehnes played lyrically and beautifully throughout the three-movement piece. His smooth, silken tone was ennobling: honey-colored and radiant in the first movement; delicate like spun gold against the strings' plucked pearls in the Larghetto; and robust, slightly rusty-sounding, when introducing the concluding rustic dance Rondo. Ehnes never placed a note off-pitch, a phrase off-kilter, a shading off-color or a weight out of balance. The audience responded with an instantaneous and well-deserved standing ovation.
(Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 29 August 2009)
I can't think I've ever heard the concerto more cleanly played. Every single note, even in the virtuoso runs and double-stops of the Jascha Heifetz cadenzas, was precisely articulated and centered. And the fine-grained tone was gorgeous, from room-filling but unforced fortissimos to sweetly mellow high pianissimos...this was a glorious performance, beautifully proportioned, warmly shaped and tinted.
(Dallas Morning News, 29 August 2009)
The real highlight of the evening was Beethoven's Violin Concerto, which was given a gorgeous performance by violinist James Ehnes and the orchestra. Ehnes' playing is clean, elegant and sweet-toned, and a very welcome enhancement is that he avoids histrionics, instead employing just the motions necessary.
(KERA - Art & Seek, 29 August 2009)
Aug. 20, 2008 | Review
"On any scale, James Ehnes's playing would surely rank highly... Eliciting a splendid sound from the Stradivarius, Ehnes negotiated the work with exceptional clarity and impeccable taste. His playing is thoroughly modern, in the sense of being free from exaggeration or excess, but still has sufficient individuality to distinguish it from the mass of technically proficient violinists who seem to be cloned by some of the larger music schools.
With a strong rhythmic backbone supporting it, his performance was appropriately virtuosic and energetic, and when required, lyrical and warmly expressive. The enthusiastic response to his performance resulted in two encores from Bach. No doubt many members of the audience could have listened to far more from this very talented young artist."
(The Advertiser, 20 August 2008)
Aug, 19, 2009 | Review
Intimacy is a relative concept at the Hollywood Bowl. Warmly communicative musicians can turn the cavernous venue into something like a living room. The evening's coziness was most apparent during the concert's centerpiece, Barber's rapturous Violin Concerto, when the audience remained hushed after the first movement, allowing the superlative 33-year-old Canadian soloist James Ehnes to take a moment to tune his violin in the cool night air.
Ehnes last performed the Barber at the Bowl in 1998, but it's hard to imagine the earlier account matching this one for sheer magic. Ehnes' songlike vibrato and alluring tone were a marvel. In the nonstop, virtuosic Presto finale, Ehnes and Tovey negotiated the heart-pounding rhythmic and metrical irregularities with aplomb. Last year, they won a Grammy for their recording of the Barber, Korngold and Walton Violin Concertos with the Vancouver Symphony, where Tovey is music director. If anything, this performance, though perhaps not quite as refined, thrilled even more.
(LA Times, 19 August 2009)
Aug, 7, 2009 | Review
James Ehnes played with soft-as-butter phrasing, and a rich and subtle tone, bringing to life and elevating the whole compendium of violin techniques from stroking and bowing to plucking and striking the strings. The performance was a masterclass in how to transform virtuosic, circus acrobatics into sensitive 'scenes' for the violin, each one telling its own little story.
(Salzburger Nachrichten, 7 August 2009)
Jul. 23, 2009 | Review
"A tsunami of violin playing by the Jascha Heifetz of our day, Canada's James Ehnes, and jovial piano virtuoso Jon Kimura Parker. Not only did they supply every detail and nuance of [the Prokofiev Sonata's] immense technical requirement, they also plumbed the limits of its inner drama. I found it hard to imagine this music more fully understood or more thrillingly played."
(Globe and Mail, 23 July 2009)
"One of the finest concerts of the year...it was hard to imagine hearing a finer violin-and-piano duo than Ehnes and Parker. Ehnes and Parker shaded the long, four-movement [Prokofiev Sonata] with a remarkable expressive range. They made the complex, difficult score sound and look effortless. They did the same for Maurice Ravel's 1927 Sonata for Violin and Piano."
(Toronto Star, 23 July 2009)
"The harmony and precision of the two artists making music in a duo recital was exceptional - it is hard to believe this was their first time playing together. Ehnes's trademark singing tone was very much in evidence throughout. Parker, a celebrated soloist in his own right, adopted just the right dynamic level, never overpowering the violin but at no time receding into the background either."
(La Scena Musicale, 23 July 2009)
Jun. 17, 2009 | Review
"The Canadian violinist possesses a commanding technical arsenal that allows him to tackle even the most tortuous difficulties, of which there are plenty in Walton's concerto, not least the Presto capriccioso's two-in-a-bar alternating harmonics and pizzicati. But sterling technique only gets you so far in this music, and Ehnes also possesses the requisite poetic sensibility, with a blend of sweetness and sinew well suited to Walton's restless romanticism. The rhapsodic opening movement has just the right wistful sense, Ehnes' gleaming tone and laser-like focus reminiscent of the work's dedicatee, without the emotional chill. Ehnes blazed through the myriad hurdles of the Italianate middle movement with dazzling bravura and technique to burn. The finale's main theme is of an almost Korngoldian sumptuousness, yet was rendered with heartfelt lyricism without oversugaring the music."
(Chicago Classical Review, 17 June 2009)
Apr. 10, 2009 | Review
"He drew a pure, sweet and full tone, especially in the upper registers, that was a genuine pleasure to hear. This is largely due to remarkable bow control and a nuanced, varied vibrato. He managed the utmost delicacy on the most technically demanding double-stop passages, which can grate in the hands of lesser players."
(The Tennesean, 10 April 2009)
Mar. 16, 2009 | Review
"I have never heard such an accurate reading of the score - the text - as that given by Canadian violinist James Ehnes. So: 100% accuracy. Fine, but what about the spirit, the passion and the sheer romance of the piece? Quite simply, the performance was saturated with them, but delivered without hyperbole, bombast or flash...the result on Friday was glorious music-making, with the SCO firing on all its polished cylinders."
(Glasgow Herald, 16 March 2009)
"Ehnes made the first movement's cascades sparkle, the second movement's lyrics sing, and he brought friendly affirmation to the finale."
(MusicalCriticism, 15 March 2009)
"...his rendition of Tchaikovsky's only Violin Concerto was superb. Playing the 'Ex Marsik' Stradivarius, he mastered the complex passages with great virtuosity - particularly the cadenza in the first movement with its notoriously high notes."
(Edinburgh Guide, 14 March 2009)
Mar. 14, 2009 | Review
"Ehnes [was] at the top of his form on Thursday evening, when he was featured in the Glazunov Violin Concerto with Gerard Schwarz on the podium. With his warmly romantic sound and technical finesse, Ehnes polished up the Glazunov as if it were a rare gem, in a noble performance that ignited an ovation. Everything he does is beautiful and musical, from the meltingly lovely opening passages through the tricky double-stops and harmonics. You won't hear Ehnes scraping and scratching away at his instrument, forcing the tone, or engaging in any showoff maneuvers. He makes everything sound easy and natural, and his intonation is uncannily accurate. Ehnes belongs in the top rank of today's violinists; every aspiring player (and every fiddle fan) should hear him."
(Seattle Times, 14 March 2008)
Mar. 11, 2009 | Review
"The Ehnes package, revealed immediately in the melodious opening andante of the Leclair, consists of palpable joy in the instrument, intonation so sweet in its perfection that you feel it physically, a strong, relaxed bow arm which wet-moulds every phrase - and a total lack of distracting ego-projection. Ehnes and Armstrong smile a lot, though: their encore, Ravel's Berceuse, dedicated to Fauré, was well into overtime - "so we're playing it just for ourselves", Ehnes joked. Its gentle lullaby went straight to the heart of their audience, though - just as Ehnes and Armstrong had pinned them to their seats a moment or two earlier in their performance of Ravel's Tzigane. Here, every colour, resonance and grain of the wood of the violin rang out in overtone, undertone and harmonic. And the piano, reincarnated as cimbalom, flexed the muscle of the Hungarian gypsy language into which both musicians dug deep."
(London Times, 11 March 2009)
Mar. 3, 2009 | Review
"an impeccable version...Ehnes and Maazel collaborated in an interpretation that was distinguished by the soberness of the Prelude, the elegance of the Adagio and surprising technical perfection in the Finale."
(El Nuevo Día, 3 March 2009)
"The two initial cadenzas already suggested the route that his interpretation would follow, more attentive to the lyrical possibilities of the concerto than to its virtuous vein. With clear technique, very careful timbre and great projection, he succeeded in the persuasion of his translation of the score, even in the final movement, marked "allegro enérgico," in which a greater show of physical force is usually expected. Nevertheless, after the central romance, so subtly and elegantly constructed together with a flexible orchestra, continuation of the lyricism in the third movement assumed a pleasing and convincing sensory experience."
(El Vocero, 3 March 2009)
Jan. 11, 2009 | Review
"A stellar performance. Ehnes has a large enough sound to be authoritative, but a sweet tone that never becomes strident or forced no matter what the volume. His eloquent interpretation of the first movement cadenza was particularly impressive, hinting in fleeting moments at the solo violin writing of the great J.S. Bach. (Sure enough, the audience was treated to two unexpected mid-concert Bach encores.) The reading was rich in emotion, delivered with charm but without exaggeration. In what is an obviously an affectionate partnership, Tovey and Ehnes played off each other's strengths, creating a triumph for soloist, conductor and orchestra."
(Vancouver Sun, 19 January 2009)
"This long and challenging piece of music was delivered with impressive skill by James Ehnes and the superb Stradivarius instrument entrusted to him, amply justifying the international acclaim his work has attracted."
(Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 11 January 2009)
Nov. 28, 2008 | Review
"All ears were on James Ehnes. Is there a creamier, more ravishing violin timbre in the world today than that from Ehnes's Strad? Add immaculate tuning, serene lyricism and an understated but unfaltering musicality, and its clear why the young Canadian is fast becoming the connoisseur's fiddler-of-choice."
(The Times, 28 November 2008)
"... the exceptional violinist James Ehnes gave a performance of the Beethoven concerto that was transfixing in its eloquence, in perfect tandem with the qualities of refinement and depth that are components of the Bournemouth orchestra's collective personality. Serenity and sinew, radiance and rhythmic point were searchingly deployed in Ehnes's profoundly expressive interpretation, the tumultuous reception of which was rewarded with an encore of the gigue..."
(Daily Telegraph, 28 November 2008)