Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 [26:36]
Octet in E-flat, Op. 20 [30:52]
James Ehnes (violin)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy
Musicians of the Seattle Chamber Music Society (James Ehnes, Erin Keefe, Andrew Wan, Augistin Haedelich (violins); Cynthia Phelps, Richard O’Neil (violas); Robert deMaine, Edward Arron (cellos))
rec. live, Warwick Arts Centre, UK, 30 January 2010 (concerto); Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall, Benaroya Hall, Seattle, 9 July 2010 (octet)
ONYX 4060 [57:31]
English has too few superlatives to describe the musicianship of James Ehnes. Disc after disc and concert after concert prove him to be - as British virtuoso Jack Liebeck described him - ‘bullet proof’. One might wonder if there was anything fresh to bring to Mendelssohn’s well worn violin concerto. Listen to this disc and find out. With spotless intonation, a ravishing tone and an incomparable fleetness of finger, Ehnes combines his impeccable technique with a profundity of understanding that is unmatchable. He brings off the flashy outer movements with seemingly no effort, as if the music just flowed out of his body like water. And then there’s the stunning middle movement. Never in my 47 years have I heard such gorgeous sounds rendered with such tenderness and depth of emotion. I wept when I heard it the first time. Ehnes’ playing is so perfect that one might wonder if studio tricks were involved. But no! This was recorded in concert, and having been lucky enough to have heard Mr. Ehnes play on a number of occasions, I will gladly vouch for his ability to play flawlessly live.
He is joined by an outstanding group of Seattle musicians for a fine performance of the youthfully exuberant Octet. Composed when Mendelssohn was but a lad of sixteen, the music is full of the optimistic sunshine of brilliant youth. Mr. Ehnes has been associated with the Seattle Chamber Music Society for a handful of seasons now, and it is evident that the rapport between these players is of the highest order. Splendid ensemble is combined with a richness of tone that is a joy to hear. It is amazing to think that a mere teenager could be capable of writing music that is not only formally perfect, but also possesses a depth of feeling unheard of in today’s youth.
Having gushed enough, let’s close by saying that this is a must-have for any music-lover. It just doesn’t get any better than this.
Kevin Sutton
Flawless, perfect, profound…James Ehnes scores another home run with this incomparable performance.