Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Samuel Barber; Erich Wolfgang Korngold; William Walton - Violin Concertos (James Ehnes)


Composer: Samuel Barber; Erich Wolfgang Korngold; William Walton
  1. Korngold - Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35: 1. Moderato nobile
  2. Korngold - Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35: 2. Romance. Andante
  3. Korngold - Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35: 3. Finale. Allegro assai vivace
  4. Barber - Violin Concerto, Op. 14: 1. Allegro
  5. Barber - Violin Concerto, Op. 14: 2. Andante
  6. Barber - Violin Concerto, Op. 14: 3. Presto in moto perpetuo
  7. Walton - Violin Concerto in B minor: 1. Andante tranquillo
  8. Walton - Violin Concerto in B minor: 2. Presto capriccioso alla Napolitana
  9. Walton - Violin Concerto in B minor: 3. Vivace

James Ehnes, violin
Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
Bramwell Tovey, conductor

Date: 2006
Label: Onyx



A fine violinist excels himself in an outstanding trio of romantic concertos

It’s an inspired coupling, as well as a generous one, to have these three high-romantic concertos together. James Ehnes gives superb performances, bringing out their full emotional thrust without vulgarity or exaggeration. His playing has always been impressive on disc, but here he excels himself in expressive range as well as tonal beauty, with expressive rubato perfectly controlled.

The concertos date from the late 1930s and ’40s, and though at such time their romanticism might have seemed outdated, the strength and memorability of the musical ideas in each amply justifies the composers’ stance. In the Barber, Ehnes more than usually brings out the contrast between the first movement – improbably marked Allegro when the impression is of a slowish piece – and the Andante slow movement, strengthening the work’s impact. The Korngold, drawing its striking main themes from some of the composer’s film scores, is just as richly lyrical, prompting from Ehnes some ecstatic playing of the many stratospheric melodies above the stave, using a wide dynamic range with wonderfully delicate half-tones.

The Walton is just as memorable, for unlike most latter-day interpreters Ehnes has taken note of the example of the work’s commissioner and dedicatee, Jascha Heifetz. Where the work is generally spread to well over half an hour, Ehnes takes exactly 30 minutes and the result is all the stronger. This is one of Walton’s most richly inspired works, and Ehnes brings that out strongly, helped by the powerful playing of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra under its music director, Bramwell Tovey. Textures are not always as transparent as they might be but the power of the orchestral playing in all three works adds greatly to the impact of the performances. An outstanding disc in every way.

-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone

More reviews:


Samuel Barber (March 9, 1910 – January 23, 1981) was an American composer of orchestral, opera, choral, and piano music. He is one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century. His Adagio for Strings (1936) has earned a permanent place in the concert repertory of orchestras. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music twice: for his opera Vanessa (1956–57) and for the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1962). Also widely performed is his Knoxville: Summer of 1915 (1947), a setting for soprano and orchestra of a prose text by James Agee. At the time of his death, nearly all of his compositions had been recorded.


Erich Wolfgang Korngold (May 29, 1897 – November 29, 1957) was an Austrian-born composer and conductor. He was a noted pianist and composer of classical music, along with music for Hollywood films, and the first composer of international stature to write Hollywood scores. Along with such composers as Max Steiner and Alfred Newman, he is considered one of the founders of film music. Korngold's serious music, with his late romantic style, has recently undergone a re-evaluation and a gradual reawakening of interest.


William Walton (29 March 1902 – 8 March 1983) was an English composer. During a sixty-year career, he wrote music in several classical genres and styles, from film scores to opera. His best-known works include Façade, the cantata Belshazzar's Feast, the Viola Concerto and the First Symphony. Walton was a slow worker, painstakingly perfectionist, and his complete body of work across his long career is not large. . His most popular compositions continue to be frequently performed in the twenty-first century, and almost all his works had been released on CD.


James Ehnes (born January 27, 1976 in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada) is a Canadian concert violinist. Ehnes began his 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. His recordings have won numerous awards and prizes, including 9 Junos, a Grammy, and a Gramophone Award. Ehnes performs on the 1715 "Marsick" Stradivarius.


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