July 18, 2011 | Reviews
"Playing to an utterly sold out crowd, Ehnes took the exalted Beethoven concerto to truly celestial heights. His loving renditions of the cadenzas by Fritz Kreisler were particularly memorable. Despite the unusual heat Sunday evening, the audience and the performer seemed to be sharing a moment of ecstasy, and the orchestra took part in this as well during the glorious climaxes of the finale." (Daily Camera, 17 July 2011)
June 13, 2011 | Reviews
"Even though Tchaikovsky's popular Violin Concerto is programmed on a regular-as-clockwork basis, we rarely hear performances of such shining quality. Ehnes has the technique, the tone, and the presence for the work. Add emotional generosity coupled with an infinitesimal dash of reticence, and his interpretation is both warm and tasteful. His overall sound is focused, sweet and refined. Lyrical passages breathe eloquently. And while there's plenty of fire and genuine brilliance, there's also precision and no grandstanding. Ehnes has long been in the forefront of younger violinists; it can now be said with complete confidence, that he is one of the leading artists of his generation."
May. 05, 2011 | Reviews
Winnipeg and Ottawa audiences were treated to a sneak peek of James's thrilling interpretation of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, a recording of which he will release in the Fall as part of his continuing relationship with Onyx Classics.
Ehnes' flying fingers make Tchaikovsky sing: “In Ehnes' hands it took on brilliant new life. Friday night's performance had the audience enraptured...Ehnes approached the opening Allegro moderato with great warmth and eloquence. His interpretation seemed to smile, with honeyed tones throbbing with feeling. Running sections were tightly succinct; slower dolce passages were silken. Tchaikovsky throws everything at the soloist in this work and Ehnes responds with a flourish of pure beauty. His cadenza showed him to be a vanguard of virtuosity as he explored the entire range of the instrument, with lightning-quick trills and a sweetness that was almost too much to bear. Ehnes lent the ultra romantic Canzonetta: Andante wonderful subtleties, phrases seeming to breathe and sigh. The Finale...pulsed with life from the opening notes. Wildness abounded as Ehnes' fingers flew from note to scampering note, then jumped into an edgy dance. This demanding movement fairly crackled with excitement, yet Ehnes showed no propensity for showmanship. Instead, he tackled his playing with workmanlike assuredness, while still producing glorious expression, musical sensitivity and an ability to make his 1715 "Marsick" Stradivarius truly sing. A standing ovation and three curtain calls prompted Ehnes to play the slow movement from Bach's solo Sonata No. 3 as an encore." (Winnipeg Free Press, 30 April 2011)
Apr. 27, 2011 | Reviews
“To everything, Ehnes and Weiss applied artistry of heightened sophistication and urgency. The violinist eschews showmanship, except when it’s called for, preferring to seek out gradations of color and nuance. His intonation is impeccable, his technique up to any challenge. The music [of Saint-Saen’s Sonata] is quintessentially tasteful and swashbuckling, and Ehnes and Weiss made a gourmet meal of it, relishing both the delicacies and the savory sensations. They were – how to put it? – dazzling in the perpetual-motion finale.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 27 April 2011)
“Thrilling and illuminating performances…played with quiet flair, unerring taste and perfect intonation by the Canadian-born violinist, in close partnership with his excellent accomplice for the evening, native Cleveland pianist Orion Weiss… Mr. Ehnes and Mr. Weiss brought their individually formidable techniques to the task [Suite Italienne], putting Stravinsky’s music across with incisive articulation and droll humor. Their coordination was a marvel to watch. …So breathtaking was the finale that the audience finally exhaled and laughed when Mr. Ehnes returned to say, “We have a slower piece”. For an encore, the two musicians played the lovely and touching second movement of Dvorák’s Sonatina.” (Cleveland Classical, 3 May 2011)
“As “the Heifetz of our day,” Ehnes certainly lives up to the reputation of his predecessor; however, unlike Heifetz (who was criticized for his cold, detached playing), Ehnes’s playing fully embodies the phrasing and tonal spectrum of a piece. Simply mastering violin technique is not his first priority. Rather, his playing serves as a bridge between the past and the present, producing a unique sound that is both modern and traditional.” (Oberlin Review, 29 April 2011)
Apr. 19, 2011 | Reviews
“He is unquestionably among the greats currently playing, and the Bruch played to his strengths. Ehnes negotiated its technical challenges, including long runs of double-stops, clean and firmly without any loss of lyrical expressiveness -- he was enthralling without flash and rhapsodic without a trace of schmaltz. To say that his tone was gorgeous, colorful and beautifully controlled falls short of a precise description…there were moments in the first two movements when Ehnes reached exultant, singing heights in way you seldom hear.” (Oregonian, 17 April 2011)
“It might be an understatement to say that Ehnes played the Bruch perfectly with a performance that was nuanced yet free and natural. His sound whispered in the quietest sections and spoke over the orchestra in the loudest ones. The sweetness and warmth of his tone could have melted obsidian. His vibrato was smooth and interesting rather than annoying. He and the orchestra were always in sync during the many tempo changes, including those that happened in the middle of a phrase.” (Oregon Music News, 18 April 2011)
Jan. 17, 2011 | Reviews
James and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra wrap up a fun six-city tour of Florida - read the reviews!
"Ehnes...kept a sweetness of sound in the first movement, even through the forte interludes. It was in the third movement, “presto in moto perpetuo” or quickly in perpetual motion, where Ehnes proved his mettle. His fingers truly were in perpetual motion, producing a feverish rush of notes."
(Orlando Sentinel, 14 January 2011)
"[Ehnes's] feel for Barber's romantic melodies and dramatic ardor was clear. In the wrong hands the concerto's opening theme can sound overly sweet. But Ehnes' broad, noble tone drew the warmth of the opening theme without sounding cloying and sentimental. He also brought out the movement's drama in, for example, his masterful handling of the crescendo and climax that leads to the orchestra's restatement of the main theme. The last movement is a virtuoso whirl of notes that makes ferocious demands on a violinist's technique. Ehnes showed no sign of struggle with this difficult passage, but neither did he toss it off with the mechanical disdain of a violinist who has mastered a work and has let his mind stray. The rapid notes took on an astonishing range of colors -- from dark, quiet and brooding to open and bright -- as Ehnes played faster and faster, achieving a frantic intensity up to the work's abrupt, brassy conclusion."
(Miami Herald, 14 January 2011)
"The artistic heart of this concert was found in the brilliant violinist James Ehnes, a Bradenton resident whom we proudly call our neighbor. The Toronto musicians were well matched with Ehnes’ artistry as together they wove a binding spell in Samuel Barber’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 14. Ehnes’ lines are unfailingly musical and the polished and maturely blending strings of the orchestra provided a luxuriant base. Barber’s music is undeniably Romantic, but his emotive lyricism evokes beautiful images without getting weighed down with overly thick textures."
(Sarasota Herald Tribune, 11 January 2011)
Dec. 23, 2010 | Reviews
"From the opening phrase we knew this was a calibre of playing rarely heard in Winnipeg. Every phrase, every note is crafted to perfection, nuanced with a deep understanding of the music and where it's going. Armstrong set the scene, introducing Ravel's taciturn Piano Trio in A Minor, introspective at first, then bursting into free, unabashed passion. DeMaine's gorgeous, substantial tone conveyed great feeling, while Ehnes's confident precision is a joy to witness. Armstrong's delicate touch provided a winsome interlude. The Pantoum was animated, yet controlled. It showcased the ensemble's exactness as the music ebbed and flowed, building in intensity and drama, while technically astounding. The finale sparkled with life, with the strings' stylish bowing and springy spiccato along with plenty of piano bravado. Even the prolonged trills moved in and out of the shadows. These three musicians feel the music in their bones -- communicating this not only in their playing but in their body language and facial expressions. Tchaikovsky's Opus 50 trio in the same key was the other work on the program. This formidable 50-minute marathon was full of soulful solos, glittering and emotional pianism, sensitive and resonant cello lines, and the sweetest of sweet violin tone. This was an incredible reading of an incredible work. The resounding and immediate standing ovation was 100 per cent deserved."
(Winnipeg Free Press, 23 December 2010)