Aug. 17, 2012 | News
James's critically acclaimed recording on CHANDOS of Bartok's two violin concertos and viola concerto with the BBC Philharmonic and Gianandrea Noseda has been short-listed in the Concerto category for the 2012 Gramophone Awards. For more information, visit the Gramophone website. His Elgar Concerto recording won the 2008 Gramophone Award in the same category. The winners will be revealed at the Gramophone Classical Music Awards on September 27 and on the Gramophone website.
July 17, 2012 | Reviews
“...the passionate playing of the violinist James Ehnes in the Tchaikovsky concerto lulled listeners into a relative silence punctuated by enthusiastic bouts of clapping after virtuosic passages throughout the work. Mr. Ehnes played with communicative flair, his sweet tone surviving the amplification that often turns string sounds metallic.” (New York Times, 17 July 2012)
July 15, 2012 | News
While in New York for the Philharmonic’s Concerts in the Parks, James stopped by the WQXR studios to record a segment for their Café Concerts series. Visit the WQXR website to watch James perform Bach's Third Partita and to learn what he and host Naomi Lewin talked about.
July 3, 2012 | Reviews
“Inside the hall, it was smoking hot — especially when James Ehnes and Jon Kimura Parker took the stage to play Bartok in this opening program of the 31st Seattle Chamber Music Society's Summer Festival. The festival, which annually opens the week of the Fourth of July, is always a reliable source of fireworks (of the musical variety), but Monday evening's opener was even more incendiary than usual. Ehnes, the festival's artistic director, and Parker, artistic adviser of the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival, are an ideal pairing of verve and artistry at the violin and piano. Whenever they join forces, it sounds as if they were inventing the music as they go, so spontaneous is their musical partnership. In Monday's concert, the Bartok Violin Sonata No. 1 took on new dimensions in a performance that really deserved a recording. Ehnes…changed the focus of his sound the way a photographer adjusts an image from hazy to sharp and back again. The ruminative Adagio sounded like an extended meditation, personal and spontaneous. In the hair-raising wild ride of the blazing final Allegro, Ehnes at one point briefly examined his violin, and one wondered if he were looking for scorch marks.” (Seattle Times, 3 July 2012)
June 10, 2012 | Reviews
“Violinist James Ehnes is [a] welcome presence at Mainly Mozart. Thank goodness for Ehnes’ attentive, well-balanced contributions to the program. He brought a direct, unmannered quality to the Mozart concerto. Saint-Saëns demands a more overtly virtuosic approach from the soloist, and Ehnes was also equal to its challenges. The ensemble matched Ehnes phrase for phrase, with the final chords acting as an explanation point for Ehnes’s exacting and energized performance.” (San Diego Union-Tribune, 10 June 2012)
May 29, 2012 | Reviews
“Their interpretation of the Ravel Quartet was the best moment in the Festival dedicated to the French composer. The achievement went beyond individual and collective playing which was irreproachable from beginning to end. It was astonishing not only for the beauty produced by the four bows but even more on the level of expression attained in so little time by the four members. What talent, intelligence and sensitivity. The expressive nuances in the tempo, the invitations to lyricism or agitation: everything was fully interpreted.” (La Presse, 28 May 2012)
“Ehnes showed that a great virtuoso can also be a sensitive chamber music soul… The program concluded with the Canadian debut of Ehnes' recently-formed quartet in an exceptional performance of Ravel's String Quartet, which signaled an important new force in the chamber music arena. With its dream-team line-up…the quartet laid out the score so finely in synch with each other it was as if they were an extension of Ehnes' own sound and phrasing. Make no mistake, this was definitely the playing of an ensemble… Throughout, Ehnes' presence and leadership recalled the virtues of other great virtuoso-led quartets—the Busch and Oistrakh Quartets, especially—where, at key moments, his exceptional voice emerged from the ensemble to provide the kind of high-voltage thrills that are so rare with conventionally-constituted quartets and which reward both the audience and the composer.” (Strings, 29 May 2012)
“Both performances [Ravel and Bartok concerts] were of the highest quality, and showcased a performer with unparalleled command of his instrument. Certainly Ehnes has all the virtuosity of a soloist. The most difficult, gnarly passages of the pieces he performed were powerfully pristine. And he has stamina to spare, moving from one exhausting work to the next without any visible or audible signs of fatigue. But what was most stunning about his performance, more stunning than his incredible speed and sniper-like accuracy, were the soft passages. Few players would dare play so soft and so tenderly as Ehnes did, drawing the audiences into the stage rather than leaping out to grab them by the neck. He often found a sound of immense sweetness and purity, allowing him to create moments of extreme tenderness and intimacy.” (Bachtrack, 29 May 2012)
May 7, 2012 | Reviews
"[Ehnes's] account of Barber's Violin Concerto was earnest and searching and extremely moving, not the blithe Americana some make the piece. He was generous spirit, too, with two encores: Paganini's 24th Caprice – oodles of notes but not a single one misplaced – and, highlight of the evening, a radiant and peaceful third movement of Bach's third solo sonata. " (Glasgow Herald, 7 May 2012)
"The Barber concerto, with its delicious melodies and alluringly sweet naïvety, was a stunning showcase for Ehnes, whose effortless musicality, immaculate technique and molten tone production captured every nuance. After the sizzling finale came two show-stopping encores of Paganini (the famous Caprice No 24) and unaccompanied Bach. Superlative." (Scotsman, 6 May 2012)
"James Ehnes [is] a violinist of the very highest order. His technique is flawless and often breathtaking (he showcased it in encores of two of Paganini’s Caprices) but I love the simplicity of his playing style, direct and unfussy, refusing to hog the limelight. He plays with modest brilliance, a flawless line of melody gushing from his instrument, most impressive of all when the violin finally gets round to playing the main theme of the second movement, played here with all the deep richness of mahogany." (Seen and Heard, 5 May 2012)
Apr. 26, 2012 | Reviews
"Ehnes’ patrician artistry and superb musicianship set the standard for the quartet. The tonal refinement, tight ensemble and deeply perceptive performances are remarkable for a recently formed group. Moretti’s silky tone, O’Neill’s light, elegant playing and deMaine’s dark, rounded sonority are matched by a nearly flawless standard of musical precision. Based on this performance, the Ehnes Quartet is headed for the top tier of chamber groups." (South Florida Classical Review, 26 April 2012)
Read the full review
Apr. 24, 2012 | Reviews
"Canadian violinist James Ehnes walked on stage and gave a performance of this same Mendelssohn concerto that was crystalline, elegant, delicate, poetic and true. ...If I were at the OSM, I would quite simply put together a series of concerts called ‘The Great Concertos for Violin’ featuring James Ehnes." (Le Devoir, 23 April 2012)
"James Ehnes reminded us that classical decorum and perfect technical presentation still have their place. The first movement was fleet and soaring, with exciting accelerations in the last minute, smartly coordinated with the orchestra. The sweetness of the Andante rose from within; nothing was applied from without. The finale was fresh and spirited. Both player and instrument (a pure-sounding Stradivarius) seemed made for the score. Ehnes offered two Paganini Caprices as encores, the famous No. 24 and somewhat more abstract No. 16. Both delivered the brilliant notes and conveyed he brilliant spirit behind them." (Montreal Gazette, 23 April 2012)
"The concerto section also remained unchanged: James Ehnes in the celebrated Mendelssohn, of which he has given us an exceptional recording. And almost-perfect yesterday in the musical argument, the articulation, intonation, and the sound…and the orchestra complement reduced by half. A standing ovation and requests for an encore - the young violinist played two Caprices by Paganini: first the famous 24th, then the 16th." (La Presse, 23 April 2012)
Apr. 12, 2012 | News
The UK's Royal Academy of Music’s Governing Body has awarded James Ehnes an Honorary Membership (Hon RAM). The Honorary Membership is conferred upon distinguished musicians and is limited to only 300 living musicians. As such, James is in great company; previous honorees include Mendelssohn, Liszt, Stravinsky, and Casals.
Apr. 3, 2012 | Reviews
"Ehnes performs with a secure command of solid technique, which he applies to his understanding of a broad scope of music history… Ehnes’ account of this sonata [Bartok Sz. 117 solo violin sonata] concentrated on those positive aspects, dealing with the virtuoso demands as prerequisites for the overall rhetoric, rather than ends in themselves. … [Ehnes and Weiss’s] interactions were at their richest in Gabriel Fauré’s Opus 13 A major sonata… As had been the case with the Gabriel Pierné sonata I discussed this past weekend, either of these compositions could be taken for Marcel Proust’s “Vinteuil Sonata;” and Ehnes and Weiss performed them with the decadently-shaded elegance of the salon life Proust captured so well in A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu." (San Francisco Examiner, 3 April 2012)
Feb. 25, 2012 | Reviews
"The violinist James Ehnes was the guest soloist in a lithe, shapely account of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor. The piece opened in a relatively matter-of-fact mode, but took on bountiful sweetness in the Andante and buoyant lilt in the dashing finale. Recalled for several ovations, Mr. Ehnes offered as encore a bracing slalom through Paganini’s Caprice No. 16." (New York Times, 17 February 2012)
"Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto blossoms with a charismatic soloist like James Ehnes. The handsome violinist projects a comfortable, almost homespun aura, but there was nothing homespun about the serious fiddling afoot, particularly in his softer moments such as those in the first cadenza. Intricate double-stops that came later posed no challenges. Ehnes handled the sweet theme of the second movement with grace, helped by plush accompaniment from Dutoit and the musicians. In the final “Allegro vivace” Ehnes almost outdid the ensemble in spring-like festiveness, and there were moments when I simply wanted to admire his bowing technique – not a movement ever wasted. As an encore, he offered one of Paganini’s Caprices, a fluid take on No. 16." (Seen and Heard, 25 February 2012)
"James Ehnes...performed a very fine and finely focused Mendelssohn Concerto. It was quite glorious to realize that there was at least one other fiddler besides Joshua Bell who is under fifty and possesses a masterful vibrato. No other piece cries out for this particular technique more plaintively than this one, and yet many modern violinists have expunged the wobble in the name of aesthetic "purity". Not so Mr. Ehnes, who reveled in his rich enunciation and Romantic phrasing. The orchestra matched him stroke for stroke. After a rousing ovation he announced that he would also present the 16th Caprice of Paganini and received more thunderous applause." (MusicalCriticism, 19 February 2012)
Feb. 15, 2012 | News
Some of you are aware at this point that I have withdrawn from my upcoming performances in Lisbon, Copenhagen, Canterbury, and London. I have received several emails of concern, and want to assure you all that I am in great health and spirits, and am only withdrawing for the happiest of reasons: the upcoming birth of my first child.
Many thanks to all for your continued friendship and support as I embark on this new and very exciting part of my life!
Feb. 14, 2012 | News
James is in New York to perform Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Charles Dutoit tonight at Carnegie Hall. Their performances earlier this week in Philadelphia were met with enthusiastic response.
"Violinist James Ehnes' Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E Minor might have been the most emotionally centered and technically spotless take on the piece I've encountered. That tone was something to treasure." (Philadelphia Inquirer, 11 February 2012)
Feb. 2, 2012 | News
Tonight is opening night of the Seattle Chamber Music Society's Winter Festival - James's first festival as artistic director of this wonderful organization. Concerts are Feb. 2, 3, and 4 at 7:30 PM, and Feb. 5 at 1 PM, at Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle. An hour before the concerts on the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th, there will be FREE pre-concert performances featuring the Ehnes Quartet playing the complete Brahms quartets.
For those who aren't in Seattle, the main concerts on these days will be broadcast live on King FM: www.king.org
Check out the society's website for more information: www.scmf.org
November 4, 2011 | News
GRAMOPHONE magazine has selected James's Bartok CD as its Recording of the Month in the November issue. Read an excerpt below or the
whole review as a PDF.
“James Ehnes offers us the most ‘Heifetzian’ recording [of Bartok’s First Violin Concerto] yet, a vibrant, tender-hearted, boisterously youthful account, bittersweet where needs be and eagerly supported by the BBC Philharmonic under Gianandrea Noseda... I can’t think of a finer version of the First Concerto than this… In the unfinished Viola Concerto…Ehnes fully matches the excellent Lawrence Power. Indeed, his rich, yielding tone makes an even stronger impression... The kernel of the piece is its slow movement and I challenge any reader to name a version that is either more moving or more beautifully played.” (Gramophone, November 2011)
October 31, 2011 | Reviews
"[In Korngold’s Violin Concerto] the soloist was the young Canadian violinist, James Ehnes, who seems to have a new CD out every few months. His latest, of Bartók violin and viola concertos, is notable for the silky smoothness of his playing. Ehnes is as cool as Chen is hot. That’s not a bad combination. Too much voluptuous warmth in Korngold’s concerto — written in 1945 by a composer who was then at his height in Hollywood — can be cloying. Ehnes withstood Chen’s orchestral onslaught with an unflappably gorgeous tone and secure technique." (LA Times, 30 October 2011)
"Violinist James Ehnes then joined Chen and the orchestra for Korngold’s Violin Concerto, a 1945 work that melds tunes drawn from Korngold’s motion picture scores from the 1930s overlaid by a wicked violin solo line that Jascha Heifetz asked the composer to make more difficult than he had originally written. Ehnes’ sweet tone was very much in evidence in the first and second movements and he handled the final movement’s pyrotechnic difficulties with seeming ease." (Pasadena Star-News, 31 October 2011)
October 22, 2011 | Reviews
"Violinist James Ehnes proved an ideal match for the Apollonian approach Langree took to this sunny concerto score by the 19-year-old composer. Ehnes’s tone is notably beautiful, with its pitch-perfect attack, roundedness and consistent gleam. This artist, too, knows how to make individual phrases memorable within long, cogently thought-through musical paragraphs, giving the kind of light-filled reading that made one want to hear him in all five of the Mozart concertos." (Washington Post, 21 October 2011)
"Mozart's supremely refined Violin Concerto No. 3 also received a fine account. Langree's model attentiveness ensured a warm framework for the soloist, James Ehnes. His sweetness of tone and warmth of phrasing paid especially memorable dividends in the slow movement -- each time the violinist sculpted the arc of the recurring motive, the effect proved ever more poetic." (Baltimore Sun, 22 October 2011)
October 20, 2011 | Reviews
"'Synapse' is anxious music, provoking anxiety, and while it was fascinating, it's not easy in any sense. Ehnes was nothing short of phenomenal; he's an incredible technician. The orchestra and Robertson were no less amazing in their performances." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 16 October 2011)
"Canadian violinist James Ehnes brought to the solo part all the skill and finess that have made him famous. He performed the 31-minutes piece with unwavering concentration, aided by the lithe energy of his own synapses." (KDHX, 20 October 2011)
"The music of Philippe Manoury is a heady dose of uncompromising modernism in an era that considers such virtues passé. His violin concerto Synapse was heard in its American premiere this weekend by soloist James Ehnes, a superb musician more known for suave and polished interpretations of standard repertoire than for ventures in contemporary music. Ehnes easily vanquished the formidable challenges, finding ways to project dramatic struggle in the near-absence of lyrical content. And even with the maze of tangled threads woven into the orchestral fabric, the listener is thrown a life raft in the form of the single pitch “neurons,” functioning much like Baroque pedal points or ostinatos." (Chicago Classical Review, 17 October 2011)
October 3, 2011 | Reviews
"The Canadian virtuoso captivated hundreds of listeners with an intimate and generous season opener for the Edmonton Chamber Music Society. With pianist and friend Andrew Armstrong, Ehnes performed for more than two hours for a nearly sold-out house who hung on his bow’s every twitch." (Edmonton Journal, 3 October 2011)
September 28, 2011 | Reviews
"Ehnes managed to put his own imprint on this work through the subtlest of rubatos and a beautiful singing tone. Levine coaxed ample majesty from the musicians during orchestral interludes, and Ehnes demonstrated tremendous musicality throughout passages of technical display. In the Andante movement, Ehnes' muted violin lent an air of introspection, which gave way to a finale filled with moments of playful teasing and dazzling virtuosity. The appreciative audience, which quickly rose to its feet, recalled Ehnes to the stage numerous times in hopes of hearing an encore. Ehnes finally obliged with Paganini's “Caprice No. 16.” It proved to be one final burst of violinistic wizardry in a second half filled with fireworks." (The Oklahoman, 28 September 2011)
September 19, 2011 | Reviews
"Grammy-winning Canadian violin virtuoso James Ehnes and the Houston Symphony dazzled a packed house with a sterling rendition of Johannes Brahms' Violin Concerto on Friday at Jones Hall. In his sixth appearance with the orchestra, Ehnes again proved notable not only for technical proficiency, but also for the warmth and understanding of his playing. His decisive bowing and precise attack lent definition and drama to the work's more emphatic statements, and he flew through the trickiest effects with alacrity and ease. Yet the delicacy and restraint of his pianissimo moments proved just as impressive. He was at his most expressive in the adagio, his graceful phrasing and soulful tone lending an elegiac quality. He gave the right zest and exuberance to the finale, whose main theme advances by leaps and bounds." (Houston Chronicle, 19 September 2011)
"[A] breathtaking performance of world-renowned violinist, James Ehnes. During the first movement’s Allegro non troppo, as Ehnes’ flawless technique combined with the incredible purity of sound from the instrument, it was quickly evident the violin had fallen into perfect hands. During the symphony’s purely solo moments it was fascinating to watch the fellow musicians as they intently gazed at the young star with deserved and reverential respect for his dazzling and truly athletic skill... Ehnes closed with still more racing precision, dazzling fingering and smiling confidence. The audience erupted with appreciative cheers and applause." (Houston Courier, 29 September 2011)
"The Brahms Violin Concerto is one of the instrument's staples and James Ehnes...managed to find that ellusive balance between a fresh interpretation while keeping the work's traditional elements intact. Even in the most taxing — and deliciously harmonic — technical passages, every note was crystal clear." (Culture Map Houston, 22 September 2011)
September 1, 2011 | News
Fans in the UK are now able to pick up a copy of James's latest recording: Bartok’s two Violin Concertos and the Viola Concerto with the BBC Philharmonic and Gianandrea Noseda on the Chandos label. Those in North America don't have to wait too long, with release dates on September 6th in Canada and September 27th in the US. Check out the cover art!