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James Ehnes - Tchaikovsky

Gramophone March 2012 

'He clearly enjoys demonstrating his ability as a virtuoso, making this one of the most exciting accounts of the finale I can remember, with the Sydney Symphony responding to the verve of the solo playing with exhilarating vigour and deftness'


The Sunday Times 8.1.2012
Ehnes’s virtuosity impresses on account of its virtue. He makes a ravishing sound and meets every technical challenge thrown at him with utterly reliable intonation, tonal consistency and beautifully controlled articulation. What distinguishes him, however, is an almost self-effacing intelligence. In the concerto and in the less familiar, smaller-scale works that fill the rest of this disc, there is every opportunity for expressive self-indulgence, yet, while not rejecting Tchaikovsky the Romantic, Ehnes remembers that this music is founded in the clarity and balance of classicism. It’s a viewpoint apparently shared by the fine Sydney Symphony and Vladimir Ashkenazy.

The Daily Telegraph 7.1.2012
Classical CD of the Week *****
'That the soloist is the wondrous James Ehnes., a thinker of the violin as well as a supreme virtuoso of the instrument. Listen to his mellifluous, muted line in the central canzonetta, his natural lyricism imbued with apt, reflective colours, and you experience an artist of the first order. ...His dexterity is a marvel of lightness and precision in the finale, but it is consistently aimed towards a musical goal, the range of tone beautifully judged and, as in the first movement, the structure and direction kept in clear view. This is a consummate performance. All in all, the disc makes a fine start to 2012.
Geoffrey Norris

The Independent 9.12.2011
****
This is the second recent recording Tchaikovsky's Violin Concero in D, and to my ears a more refined and mature affair than Laurent Korcia's melodramatic reading. Even in the bravura passages, James Ehnes' bowing seems calm and effortless. Elegent and technically adept, Ehnes is never tempted into over-emotional flourishes: each phrase is precisely measured. It's not a cold performance - it is, after all, Tchaikovsky. But Ehnes never lets that act as an excuse for overplaying, as demonstrated by the solo passage 10 minutes into the first movement, a knife edge dance of subtle and illuminating dexterity.


BBC Radio 3 CD Review 3.12.2011

First, though, those fiddle concertos, and my eyes lit up when I saw
that Canadian violinist James Ehnes has just released a concert recording of the Tchaikovsky
concerto made in Sydney, especially with a Tchaikovskian of the calibre of Vladimir
Ashkenazy.
The opening of the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, and apologies for that interruption, which did
no good to our appreciation of James Ehnes’s fine playing there – that was the CD player in
the studio reacting badly to it. Well, it’s a recording made live in Sydney Opera House almost
exactly a year ago, James Ehnes with the Sydney Symphony conducted by Vladimir
Ashkenazy. I love the way Ashkenazy controls the tempo of the opening, even when the
chugging cellos and basses propel us towards the soloist’s first entry, and from that point on,
basically, you know they’re going to have all the time in the world to explore Tchaikovsky’s
poetic side without having to hurl themselves headlong at the pyrotechnics. Ehnes brings a
lovely conversational quality to his dialogue with the orchestra. He’s balanced realistically
against them, and it allows you to appreciate the sometimes rugged charm of the orchestral
writing as Ehnes soars eloquently overhead. The second movement canzonetta has a velvety,
muted passion and the finale’s explosive opening is impressively urgent, and when Ehnes
launches into his solo he leaves room to breathe. It’s so expressive, and not just a
hyperventilating rush for the line. Fine work, not least from the recording team, and
Tchaikovsky’s ‘Sérénade Mélancolique’, his ‘Valse-scherzo’ and lastly the three-movement
‘Souvenir’, with Ashkenazy the pianist, makes this a Tchaikovskian’s delight. It’s new from ONYX
Andrew MacGregor