Strauss Violin Concerto with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Sir Andrew Davis

August 12, 2016 | News


"That always-welcome soloist, James Ehnes?, returned to resuscitate Strauss' brilliant Violin Concerto in D minor, a product of the composer's teenage years but loaded with enough virtuosity to keep Ehnes busy and a rich-if-lumpy orchestration to back his efforts. The surrounding framework of Strauss' concerto may be leaden in format but Ehnes dazzled through his warm passion as the work's focal point: razor-keen for the Allegro, maintaining a glowing warmth in his non-stop slow movement, then switching to snappy brilliance for the finale. Throughout this work – as with pretty well everything we have heard from him in live performance – Ehnes demonstrated unflappable authority, surging past Strauss' obstacles as though they didn't exist. In short, an exhilarating experience to be relished."(The Age, 12 August 2016)




 


Ehnes String Quartet: Complete Beethoven String Quartets in Seoul, Korea

July 1, 2016 | News


The Ehnes Quartet began performance of the historic Complete String Quartets by Beethoven on June 25, 2016.

The Ehnes Quartet, comprised of James Ehnes and Amy Schwartz Moretti (violin), Richard Yongjae O’Neill (viola) and Robert DeMaine (cello), began their first performance by playing a piece from beginning, middle and end section of Beethoven String Quartet Nos. 1, 11, 13, etc. at the iBK Chamber Hall of Seoul Arts Center. It was a masterful performance of incredible collaboration.

In the beginning, which was the first movement of Beethoven String Quartet No. 1, the first impression of Ehnes Quartet was light and controlled. The two violins seemed as one. The violin tones of the Ehnes Quartet enraptured the listeners. In the slow second movement, the instruments continued as if privately conversing in whispers to one another. At times it felt as if the instruments were sighing in sorrow. The third movement passed by fluidly and the following fourth movement was exquisite. Each part was clearly different and control of the tempo was also masterful.

Listening to their performance first hand, it leads to the realization that Beethoven had created music that was independent from the influences of Haydn and Mozart even from String Quartet No. 1. The middle section of the String Quartet No. 11 ‘Serioso’ first movement began with a fast tempo. The overall performance of the four instruments seemed to play as one instrument and the tension kept the listener’s gasping for breath. In the second movement, the low tones of the cello resonated. After the third movement, which suggested a struggle, the fourth movement seemed to suggest the dance of a delicate soul.

The finale, Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 13, was grandiose yet mysterious. When the Quartet performed the fifth movement ‘Cavatina’, it was chilling. Reminding the listeners that cavatina means ‘short song’, the modern four string instruments played metaphysical music. In the title co-written by Richard Yongjae O’Neill ‘My and Your Beethoven’, Richard Yongjae O’Neill’s teacher, Irwin Isenberg referred to ‘cavatina’ as “Beethoven’s tears itself”. The performance brought to mind the old man in the book who was moved to tears at hearing this piece. With a magnificence beyond words, the performance exalted listeners.

It was a fine performance where the three elements of performers, program, and music hall were in harmony. It felt as if listeners were experiencing Beethoven’s life. The concentration of the performers and audience continued throughout the entire performance.

The performance of Beethoven’s Complete String Quartet continues today (2pm, 8pm), on July 1 (8pm) and July 3 (2pm, 8pm).

Taehyung Ryu, Music Columnist




 


Mozart Violin Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Major, K. 207 with the Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra and Michael Francis

June 18, 2016 | News


As James Ehnes began the Violin Concerto No. 1 K207, there were in fact three performers in play on the stage: Mr. Ehnes, the Festival Orchestra, and the Balboa acoustic itself. During the cadenza of the slow movement of the concerto we were treated to the most delicate of examples of the theatre's sound, a crystal clear acoustic with a perfect reverberation and not a hint of echo or bounce. The first notes of the violin part, which occur in the mid-range, and every descent into that and the lower range, revealed the wood of the instrument ever more clearly. Ehnes's sound was never coarse, but rather a rich, substantial tone that seemed to allow us to feel, even smell and taste the sound; it had a scent like old, polished oak, and the texture of sugarcane in our mouths. The calls and responses of the third movement brought eyebrow-raising smiles, like facial choreography. I'm sure I wasn't alone in that. We were dancing to the master's tune. Again, the clarity of each down-bowed attack made the chiff of hair and rosin on string sound almost percussive in the hall, but in the best, most revealing way. The instrument was coming to us, rather than we being uncomfortably close to the instrument. Truly, this was the highlight of the Mozart portion of the evening, and a memorable performance from the artistic director of the Seattle Chamber Music Society." (San Diego Reader, 18 June 2016)




 


Elgar Violin Concerto with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Peter Oundjian

June 10, 2016 | News


Elgar’s Concerto has been gaining in popularity over the years, and Ehnes, like a matinée idol, was present for the bravura passages in every sense of the word. His tone may not be the most far-reaching, but Ehnes’ artistry was more about exploring the architectural shape of the work rather than building the themes individually. With a bow, he chipped away at the marble until Elgar’s statue stood at the end of the third movement, holding a Windflower. The orchestra, especially during the allegro, was slightly overbearing at times, but Peter Oundjian reined in the strings to allow Ehnes the room to explore the emotional core of the work.(Toronto Star, 10 June 2016)




 


James Ehnes@40 Canada Tour Reviews - Spring 2016

May 1, 2016 | News


“We were treated to the complicity and intimacy of two old friends and partners, working together as if in the comfort of their living room — the very best kind of chamber music experience. Bramwell Tovey wrote Stream of Limelight as a kind of birthday present for Ehnes’ tour. It’s a fun, theatrical piece that packs a lot of moods into its short form. It has an internal rigour tied to a nostalgic, constantly transforming theme. This natural ebb and flow saves it from the episodic, choppy writing that plagues so much contemporary music. While birthday boys are normally on the receiving end of gifts, Ehnes closed the concert with a surprise goody-bag full of crowd-pleasing encores. His Flight of the Bumblebee achieved an insect-like thrum that almost out-Heifetzed Heifetz. There was a ghostly Sibelius lullaby; a piece of exotica by Fritz Kreisler (written before the term cultural appropriation was coined); and a rollicking kitchen party of a tune by Percy Grainger. The final sparkler on the cake was a spectacular work by Sarasate. Happy birthday to us.” (Ottawa Citizen, 29 April 2016)

“ The pair delivered a performance which was brilliant and engaging from start to finish…From the opening phrases of the Handel, Ehnes demonstrated his elegantly silken legato founded in gorgeous tone and perfect intonation from his 1715 “Marsick” Stradivarius. He was well matched by Armstrong…and the richness each player drew from his instrument was parallel and complementary. In Beethoven’s “Spring” Sonata, the familiar song-like opening again combined phrasing, tone and balance in a rare symbiosis. Streams of Limelight is a brilliant, imaginative work which defies easy description or analysis but is a pleasure to hear, especially with two such superb performers. The audience…gave it a generous standing ovation…A group of no fewer than eight encore-type showstoppers brought the evening to a spectacular conclusion…From the dizzying, literally flying notes of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Flight of the Bumblebee, Sarasate’s Tarantella and James Newton Howard’s 133...At Least (the title is a metronome reference) through more lyrical strains of Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Ponce and Grainger, Ehnes and Armstrong took listeners on a near psychedelic journey to the stars and back.” (ConcertoNet, 29 April 2016)

“[Handel’s D Major Sonata] was beautifully-shaped by Ehnes at the beginning, with considerable lightness and agility in the subsequent Allegro. The Larghetto was highlighted by the violinist’s very pure playing, with long beautiful lines… The finale had a definite athleticism, with well-defined detail and accents.” (Vancouver Classical Music, 11 May 2016)

“There was something distinctly Canadian in the easy rapport between Ehnes and the audience at this remarkably beautiful, eloquent recital. The unique qualities of Ehnes’s playing are immediately evident when hearing him play. But a listing of these properties — a superbly clean approach to execution, an intense lyricism, bravura when needed, and a compelling violin tone — does not really capture the essence of why he is so uniquely successful as a recitalist… without a doubt Ehnes possess [an] indefinable magnetism that enables his music making to penetrate the hearts of his listeners. Ehnes is a living national treasure, and Calgarians who attended this concert will not quickly forget it.” (Calgary Herald, 15 May 2016)

“Some artists are simply born with that magical, illusive "it" factor. Ehnes has always possessed that kind of charisma in spades, with his Midas touch seemingly turning all his concert performances and recordings to gold. But even with his ever-growing list of prestigious awards and accolades that has included multiple Grammy and Juno awards — among others — he always appears truly humbled by his own success, endearing himself as a Prairie boy forever in Manitobans’ hearts. The two launched into the [Handel]’s Affettuso that leads to its bright Allegro. Ehnes’ crisp attack fuelled by nimble bowing breathed new life into this Baroque classic, with the equally gifted Armstrong matching the soloist note for note with his own florid ornamentation. The two play as though in a conversation between good friends, with an innate rapport that is palpable. Ehnes also displayed his gorgeous lyricism during the Larghetto before returning to an exuberant Allegro finale. The duo performed [the Beethoven] like a breath of fresh spring air, with Ehnes’s fluid bow cresting over its arching themes. However, this is still Beethoven, and Armstrong infused it with requisite temperament that became a compelling juxtaposition of blue skies and rolling storm clouds.By the time of its second movement, Adagio molto espressivo, the rapt audience was firmly under their spell, as Ehnes sensitively caressed sound from his fiddle. … another thunderous standing ovation with cries of bravo by the ecstatic crowd for their hero and one of the province’s most illustrious musical sons — doubtlessly heard all the way to Wheat City itself.” (Winnipeg Free Press, 19 May 2016)

“Ehnes and Armstrong have developed an unsurpassable cohesion in their interpretation of Beethoven. Today’s “Spring Sonata” was played with energy, balance, impeccable musicianship, and breathtaking lyricism.” (Toronto Concert Reviews, 29 May 2016)




 


John Williams’s Violin Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Stéphane Denève

May 9, 2016 | News


“The deluxe treatment that came with the likes of James Ehnes, who played the Williams Violin Concerto at Thursday at the Kimmel Center with the insights and commitment he brings to better-known repertoire.” (Philadelphia Inquirer, 8 May 2016)

“Canada’s remarkable James Ehnes…I hesitate to call him a virtuoso, since that term suggests a flashy, in-your-face bravado utterly foreign to his style, but there is no doubt of his technical mastery. Yet, it is not his flawless technique that elevated this performance, but rather the seamless flow, dynamic richness, and interpretative insight that Ehnes brought to individual passages and to his vision of the work as a whole. Thanks to Ehnes’s insight, the cadenza at the end of the first movement holds its heartbreaking, uplifting own with some of the greatest in the violin repertoire. Few contemporary cadenzas move from such a depth of feeling, and I think we can thank Ehnes, even more than Williams, for a few moments when emotion and intelligence coalesced into art.” (Broadstreet Review, 9 May 2016)

“James Ehnes has not been around as long as Yo-Yo Ma, but he is a master of comparable caliber, and he mustered for the concerto an ideal blend of delicacy and fire. Greeted with a standing ovation of more than ordinary enthusiasm, he responded with an encore—the Largo from Bach’s third solo sonata—in his performance of which delicacy reigned supreme.” (Seen and Heard, 13 May 2016)




 


NEW CD: Debussy, Elgar, Respighi with pianist Andrew Armstrong (Onyx Classics) Getting Rave Reviews!

April 5, 2016 | News


"[A] superb recital by James Ehnes and Andrew Armstrong… Armstrong and Ehnes are perfectly matched here, instinctively touching not only the soul but also the heart of Elgar's creative world with a subtlety and sensitivity that, as with Ehnes's Concerto recording, cause shivers to run up and down the spine." FIVE STARS (Daily Telegraph, 2 April 2016)

"This thoughtful album, an anatomy of Europe torn apart, is deftly played by James Ehnes and Andrew Armstrong, calibrating instrumental equality in Debussy and violin dominance in Sibelius. I haven’t heard the Elgar played so eloquently in decades, or the Respighi so lyrically. It’s a flawless record, a five-star. You won’t see many of those." FIVE STARS (Musical Toronto, 22 March 2016)

"...a satisfying recital disc that showcases Ehnes’s warm tone and purposeful phrasing. These are serious pieces, and...Ehnes and Armstrong make their heavyweight interpretations work." (Guardian, 17 March 2016)

"These three three-movement, highly substantial sonatas were written around the same timeit is an imaginative stroke to bring them together...sumptuously played." (Sunday Times, 27 March 2016)




 


James Takes Home his 11th JUNO Award!

April 3, 2016 | News


On Saturday night James won his 11th JUNO Award for his recording of Franck & Strauss Violin Sonatas (Onyx Classics) with pianist Andrew Armstrong in the category of Classical Album of the Year: Solo or Chamber Ensemble. Congratulations!




 


Sibelius Violin Concerto with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä

March 12, 2016 | News


“Canadian violinist James Ehnes was the brilliant soloist in Sibelius' Violin Concerto. Ehnes brought not only striking virtuosity but also genuine expressive intensity.” (TribLive, 11 March 2016)

"[Ehnes's] playing had the qualities of a potter and a painter. He molded phrases as if from clay while at the same time painting them with splashes of colors: high notes that flickered like light, vibrato as human as an operatic voice, lullaby-like lines in the middle movement. And he matched that subtlety with a self-assured playing, leaving the listener feeling like the challenging music was in safe hands." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12 March 2016)




 


Beethoven Violin Concerto with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Vladimir Ashkenazy

February 18, 2016 | Reviews


"Canadian violinist James Ehnes and his 1715 Marsick Stradivarius has become a familiar sight on Sydney Opera House’s concert hall stage. One of Vladimir Ashkenazy’s favourite soloists during his tenure as chief conductor of Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the 40-year-old virtuoso caused a sensation when he came here to play the Elgar concerto in 2008.By the time he returned in 2010 for the Tchaikovsky he had a solid Sydney fanbase, and most recently his reading of the Prokofiev and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons attracted more rave reviews. His latest visit, playing the Beethoven’s concerto for Ashkenazy’s full symphonic cycle, eloquently illustrates what all the fuss is about. It’s partly in his attention to every detail. Even the extended trills of the first movement are given the same concentration as the beautifully executed runs. The lines are elegant and smooth. He never pushes it but lets the music build through its own momentum so by the time he gets to Kreisler’s celebrated cadenzas with their double stopping wizardry we are left breathless. But with Beethoven the music as always is paramount and here the young Canadian is in tune, literally and figuratively, with his orchestral companions. A keen chamber musician...his approach to the work is of an intelligent conversation with the orchestra rather than the old-fashioned idea of the showy soloist. When he does unbutton, Ehnes shows impeccable technique with fingering and bow, with rounded phrasing and precise articulation." (Daily Telegraph, 17 February 2016)

"In Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D, Opus 61, Canadian violinist James Ehnes, Vladimir Ashkenazy, and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra created unhurried expansiveness in the first movement, lingering sweetness in the second and buoyant joy in the finale. That, of course, is more or less what everyone tries to do, but sometimes the tempos can prove elusive. Too much indulgence and the magisterial drumbeat (which becomes at times a heartbeat) of the first movement evaporates in romantic fantasy – too little and the work fails to breath with humanity. When it all comes together, the piece becomes a profound expression of humility and radiance that few fail to respond to. In this case, it also had the extraordinary beauty and immaculately smooth sound that Ehnes draws from the Marsick Stradivarius violin that he plays. It has an elusive balance of colour, glow, firmness and sweetness that falls on the ear like the finest white wine you could imagine would fall on the palette. One could easily become addicted. Just as well he kept those tempos moving forward. This performance joins the pantheon of the SSO's most memorable of this work." (Sydney Morning Herald, 18 February 2016)




 


Two JUNO Award Nominations!

February 2, 2016 | News


James is up for two JUNO Awards for his two latest CDs on Onyx Classics: Best Classical Album: Solo or Chamber Ensemble for his recording of Franck and Strauss Sonatas with Andrew Armstrong and Best Classical Album: Large Ensemble or Soloist(s) with Large Ensemble for his recording of Vivaldi: The Fours Seasons with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Andrew Armstrong. The awards will be handed out at a ceremony in Calgary on April 2.




 


Opening night at the Seattle Chamber Music Society’s Winter Festival

January 25, 2016 | Reviews


"In the beginning there was Bach, and James Ehnes. You couldn’t ask for a more illustrious start to a festival...an eloquent reading of Bach’s solo Violin Sonata in G Minor. Music lovers drank in Ehnes’ performance — the purity of his phrasing, the precision of his intonation and the power of his interpretation. Clean, elegant lines and effortless playing made listeners forget what an athletic feat it really is to play at this level, with four Bach movements culminating in a sizzling, speedy finale that pushed at the boundaries of what is possible on the violin. The music waxed and waned so naturally, and Ehnes made this lyrical virtuosity sound so easy. The audience responded with an ovation that made it clear everyone was well aware they were hearing something rare and spectacular. The concert that followed brought Ehnes back to the stage, this time with pianist Andrew Armstrong, in a sonata from the other end of the violin spectrum: Bartok’s searing Sonata No. 1, a work of tremendous intensity and rough-hewed energy. Contrast was the key here, with Ehnes refining his sound in the second movement down to a mere thread before the two players launched into the wild, violent ride of the final allegro." (Seattle Times, 23 January 2016)




 


The Ehnes Quartet all-Beethoven program for Friends of Chamber Music

November 17, 2015 | Reviews


"From the moment violinist James Ehnes and his colleagues took the stage at Coral Gables Congregational Church, the quartet offered finely chiseled ensemble playing and probing interpretive visions of the many sided master from Bonn. The String Quartet No. 5 in A Major is youthful Beethoven, rich in melody and spirited invention. The players’ vigorous attack at the onset of the initial Allegro never abated throughout the movement. A lovely Allegretto was unhurried and aristocratic with the sudden abrupt chords that interrupt the main theme, a Haydnesque joke, given emphatic weight. Ehnes, a superb soloist in his own right, gave a formidable display of virtuosity in the Andante cantabile but his soaring tone blended seamlessly with second violin Amy Schwartz Moretti...

The opening chords of the Quartet No. 11 in F Major announce a different Beethoven. Despite the relentless tempo throughout the stormy and dramatic first movement, the players’ tone remained evenly balanced and devoid of roughness. Richard O’Neill’s deep viola sonority shone impressively in the second movement, firm and strongly present while always finely blended...

The Quartet No. 15, Op. 132 is Beethoven’s penultimate complete chamber work. Robert DeMaine’s warm, suave cello sound launched the dark, mysterious introduction. Changes of meter were smoothly achieved and the four musicians’ sonority was almost orchestral in the ensuing Allegro, the playing fired up and full of vitality. The Molto Adagio third movement is the score’s heart. This is Beethoven at the pinnacle of his creative powers, despite deafness and illness, searching for higher means of expression. The Ehnes foursome brought out the music’s ethereal beauty, allowing the long phrases to unfold quietly and slowly without exaggerated emphasis, a pitfall in many less musically astute renditions. Sweeping contrasts between a robust march and energtic Allegro Appassionato completed a performance of rare distinction that combined awesome technique with a strong sense of the score’s elegiac darkness. In response to a standing, shouting ovation, the quartet lightened up with a bright reading of the final movement of Beethoven’s early Quartet No. 4 that nicely combined vigor with a touch of charm and whimsy." (South Florida Classical Review, 17 November 2015)




 


Ehnes Quartet at the Auditorium du Louvre in Paris

November 16, 2015 | Reviews


"It is evident that they know each other very well - one can hear the shared intensity of emotion...their “Death and the Maiden” was infinitely dramatic; throughout the four movements, we heard different rhythms, at times dark, at times quiet, at times compelling. Their playing released a power that went far beyond the notes, a sort of battle between life and death symbolised by the music…the final ‘presto’, already fast at the beginning, went even faster in the ‘coda’ but the celebrated momentum did not stop, the musicians launched a race against death and it was life that triumphed with the final chords...the final movement of Dvorak’s ‘American Quartet’, performed as the encore, overflowed with life, with one rhythm – blithely joyful and cheerfully seductive." (Resmusica, 16 November 2015)




 


Beethoven's Violin Concerto with the San Diego Symphony and Edo de Waart

October 28, 2015 | Reviews


"the Beethoven Violin Concerto, with soloist James Ehnes, was elegant...Ehnes’ refined, nuanced playing was a good fit with de Waart’s rarefied approach. At time Ehnes’s playing almost sounded wistful." (San Diego Union Tribune, 24 October 2015)

"Ehnes imbued the Beethoven Violin Concerto with a level of refinement and consistently lustrous tone that was almost too good to be true. Perhaps because his poise and deft treatment of every flourish was so breathtaking, de Waart subtly emphasized the composer’s harmonic provocations in the orchestra to balance the equation. Ehnes’ fleet, jocund account of the Rondo finale served as his encore." (San Diego Story, 24 October 2015)

"Violinist James Ehnes played the Beethoven Violin Concerto and it was as creamy as could be... I could have listened to the cadenza all day long. Ehnes, as a performer, was quiet in his body and facial expression. There were none of the pained grimaces of constipation which some, not all--but some, solo violinists employ. Ehnes’s playing was mesmerizing in and of itself. We didn’t need to see him “feeling it.” The tone and quality of his playing took care of it all." (San Diego Reader, 26 October 2015)




 


Ehnes Quartet in London's Wigmore Hall

October 27, 2015 | Reviews


"Throughout their performance of Schubert’s Death and the Maiden, the quartet gave its listeners jagged rhythms, the throbbing competitiveness of its counterpoint harmonies, timid and abashed light ditties, and sometimes even a playful, staccato-fuelled rhythm. The mania that permeates the music was apparent but it didn’t spill into the technical finesse of its performance. If one considered that the work had been composed a little after Schubert had discovered he was dying, one could hear the struggle between morbidity and self-denial; an unrelenting search to find a truth which nobody wants to confront. Lastly the ensemble treated us to a contrasting performance of the final movement of Dvo?ák’s American Quartet as an encore. It was sprightly and bouncy, full of almost frenetic joy. It was everything we wouldn’t have expected from the players we had heard and thus the final confirmation that, whatever gloss these instrumentalists employ to make their rhythm and their intonation sparkle – other string quartets should want at least an ounce of it." (MusicOMH, 26 October 2015)




 


Bruch's Scottish Fantasy with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and John DeMain

October 17, 2015 | Reviews


"Solo violinist James Ehnes gave a stellar performance. His sense of phrasing, in particular, was especially nice — as natural as breathing." (The Cap Times, 17 October 2015)

"Violinist James Ehnes returned to the Madison Symphony Orchestra stage Friday night, a 300-year-old Stradivarius in hand, and watched his audience fall in love. His performance of Max Bruch's “Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra” was flawless and, honest to God, really did seem to transport one to that rocky land. We hear a lot of fine violin solos in Madison, but Ehnes does seem to have magic in his bow." (Channel 3000, 17 October 2015)

"Returning after a visit three years ago, the Canadian violinist James Ehnes avoids the “warhorse” choice of Bruch's popular Concerto No. 1 for the more rarely heard Scottish Fantasy by the composer... The solo part, written for the great virtuoso Spanish violinist Pablo de Sarasate, is flamboyant and demanding, but Ehnes brings it off with stylish flair, in a truly memorable performance." (Isthmus, 17 October 2015)




 


Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No.1 with the National Arts Centre Orchestra and Alexander Shelley

October 10, 2015 | Reviews


“Canadian violinist James Ehnes laid down a memorable performance: subtle, exquisitely controlled, with a pure, focused, limpid tone that allowed even the most whisper-quiet passages to cut through the dense orchestration. The final movement slipped by like a dream. Ehnes made Prokofiev’s endless cascades of chromatic scales swirl delicately, like a tiny snowglobe blizzard." (Ottawa Citizen, 10 October 2015)




 


Mozart's Violin Concerto No.5 in the Calgary Philharmonic's 60th Anniversary Concert

October 3, 2015 | Reviews


“Warmly received throughout the evening’s first half, there could be no denying Ehnes Friday night and his squeaky clean reputation for delivering sparkling, nearly flawless performances. And the Mozart Fifth Violin Concerto showed the Canadian star soloist at his fullest ease and comfort with that repertoire. He didn’t take many chances with the phrasing or the tone, befitting his unflappable artistic disposition, and as might be predicted, his unfailingly safe musical choices sat well with a very satisfied and enthusiastic audience. Even the Turkish Rondo third movement, though brisk in the celebrated A minor section and thus a little ill-timed at certain moments with the orchestra, still presented an enviable degree of panache. The lyrical second movement sustained powerful interest in the hall, and many appeared to hang on Ehnes’s every note. As a solo encore, Ehnes played the Presto finale of the Bach Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor, dispatching it with unbreathed virtuosity." (Calgary Herald, 3 October 2015)




 


Glazunov's Violin Concerto (and Mahler's 10th) with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Donald Runnicles

September 30, 2015 | Reviews


“Isn’t it time we just came out and declared James Ehnes one of the greatest violinists of the day? He’s totally free of show business. Time after time he comes on, does the business with the music, as he did on Thursday with a lusciously-melodic account of Glazunov’s Violin Concerto, never misses a beat, and simply plays better than anyone else I know. And he seems such a nice guy. You know what he did on Thursday? After his concerto, he sat himself anonymously among the SSO strings, for the rare opportunity of playing in Mahler 10. Isn’t that lovely?” (Herald Scotland, 25 September 2015)

“James Ehnes paid Glazunov the compliment of taking him seriously, and he produced a beautifully cogent sound, full of cantabile tone and dazzling technique that almost felt wasted on the Russian’s music! Only at the end of the Mahler did I notice him sitting at the back of the first violins: he had sneaked in and played the whole symphony as part of the orchestra. Now that, almost more than the concerto, is a testament to his class and modesty.” (Seen & Heard International, 28 September 2015)

“[Ehnes was] a captivating soloist in Glazunov’s Violin Concerto. Ehnes always embraces the spirit of whatever work he is tackling – here, he gamely offered huge, husky low melodies and sultry slides between notes – but he also always sounds absolutely himself. His encore was the presto of Bach’s G minor solo sonata: fast, feather-light and muscular all at once.” (Guardian, 30 September 2015)

“James Ehnes (pictured above) made light work of Glazunov's short Violin Concerto. His playing is rich and precise, even slightly cool, but it was overlaid on an accompaniment that was perfectly judged. His Bach encore, from the G minor Concerto, was astonishing: a blizzard of notes delivered deadpan and with a Gould-like precision.” (ArtsDesk, 28 September 2015)

“a performance of Glazunov’s Violin Concerto that combined technical perfection with glowing, glittering musicality. His Bach encore was a supersonic sensation.” (Scotsman, 26 September 2015)




 


All-Bartók recital with Andrew Armstrong to open Wigmore Hall's 15-16 season

September 21, 2015 | Reviews


“There was no better place for the Wigmore Hall to begin its season-long Bartók Chamber Music series than with this brilliant recital devoted to works for violin and piano. No one today is better placed to play this music than James Ehnes. A versatile artist, the Canadian violinist has nevertheless made Bartók a speciality and the focus of a big recording project for Chandos. His commanding view of this repertoire allowed him to deliver a perfectly balanced programme reflecting four very different aspects of the composer's art... The Rhapsody No. 1 (1928) shows the composer's mature style and its way of integrating rural material (mostly Transylvanian tunes) into a sophisticated structure, all illuminated by Ehnes's bold and gleaming tone. He was matched in every detail by the imaginative pianism of Andrew Armstrong in a fiery performance... Hungarian dances flicker wistfully, yet this sonata calls for big-boned playing and received it from Ehnes's soaring violin and Armstrong's surging piano... Bartók the modernist was represented here by his elusive yet highly expressive Violin Sonata No. 2, a searching and restless work dedicated to Adila Arányi in 1922. It calls especially for a staggering range of violinistic technique, but both players met its challenges superbly in a vibrant performance.” (Daily Telegraph, 19 September 2015)

"Who could tire of the full, rich tone of Ehnes's 1715 Stradivarius? We heard it first in the folksy dances of the Rhapsody No 1, forcefully delivered. Yet it was the quirky E minor sonata that really scorched our ears. Ehnes's violin effortlessly darted between sweet lyrical sighs and hot gypsy passion. Armstrong's piano sprung its own surprises, mellifluous one moment, spikily showy the next. You could almost see Bartók forming himself in his bubbling crucible. Tonal varieties multiplied in the shape-shifting world of the Second Sonata. In the first movement I loved Ehnes's musing, quiet as a sleeping mouse, pitted against Armstrong's muffled chords; but that was just one moment among many in the work's mysterious carnival. The encore was incredible, too: Bartók's Andante, an early valentine, as candied as Korngold and for this superbly rewarding recital, the perfect goodnight kiss." (The Times, 21 September 2015)