Friday, April 24, 2015

James Ehnes

No. 195 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at


Our long look at concertos, as well as our tryptich of montages on Max Bruch’s violin concertos both come to an end today, with this two-work playlist featuring Canadian violinist James Ehnes. Known for his virtuosity and probing musicianship, violinist James Ehnes has performed in over 30 countries on five continents, appearing regularly in the world’s great concert halls and with many of the most celebrated orchestras and conductors.

James Ehnes was born in 1976 in Brandon, Manitoba where he began violin studies at the age of four, and at age nine became a protégé of the noted Canadian violinist Francis Chaplin. He studied with Sally Thomas at the Meadowmount School of Music and from 1993 to 1997 at The Juilliard School, winning the Peter Mennin Prize for Outstanding Achievement and Leadership in Music upon his graduation. Mr. Ehnes first gained national recognition in 1987 as winner of the Grand Prize in Strings at the Canadian Music Competition. The following year he won the First Prize in Strings at the Canadian Music Festival, the youngest musician ever to do so. At age 13, he made his major orchestral solo debut with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal.

James has won numerous awards and prizes, including the first-ever Ivan Galamian Memorial Award, the Canada Council for the Arts’ Virginia Parker Prize, and a 2005 Avery Fisher Career Grant. James has been honoured by Brandon University with a Doctor of Music degree (honoris causa) and in 2007 he became the youngest person ever elected as a Fellow to the Royal Society of Canada. In 2010 the Governor General of Canada appointed James a Member of the Order of Canada, and in 2013 he was named an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music, limited to a select group of 300 living distinguished musicians.

The Ehnes discography numbers over 35 recordings featuring music ranging from J.S. Bach to John Adams. His recordings have been honored with many international awards and prizes, including a Grammy, a Gramophone, and ten Juno Awards.

James Ehnes plays the "Marsick" Stradivarius of 1715. He and his family make their home in Bradenton, Florida far away from the long, cold winters of his native Western Canadian Prairies.

Sir William Walton’s Violin concerto was commissioned by Jascha Heifetz in 1936. The premiere of the original version took place on December 7, 1939, in Cleveland, with Heifetz on violin and the Cleveland Orchestra conducted by Artur Rodziński. Heifetz made the first recording of the piece, with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra conducted by Eugene Goossens, in 1942. The revised version premiered on January 17, 1944, in Wolverhampton, England, with Henry Holst on violin and the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Sargent. Among the works written by Walton around the same time are the march Crown Imperial and and the Second Orchestral Suite from Façade (1938). The violin concertos of Samuel Barber, Ernest Bloch, Benjamin Britten, Paul Hindemith, and Walter Piston are contemporary, and Berg's, Schoenberg's, Bartók's second, and Prokofiev's second violin concertos were completed within the three years preceding the start of Walton's composition, making it certainly one of the great works for the instrument in the first half of the 20th Century.

Max Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 3 in D minor was composed in 1891 and dedicated to his friend and colleague at the Berlin Academy of Music, the eminent violinist Joseph Joachim, who had persuaded Bruch to expand what had started out as a single movement concert piece into a full violin concerto.

Like last week’s second, and despite being advocated by Joachim and Pablo de Sarasate, the third concerto, which differed from its predecessors in its adherence to traditional classical structures never attained the same prominence as his first or his Scottish Fantasy. In a sense, it is referred to sometimes as a curiosity or even “a unicorn” since it was hardly played, it was believed as “stuff of musical folklore”.

I think you will love this music too!

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