- James Ehnes (Violin)
Notes & Reviews:
James Ehnes revisits the most demanding work in the violin repertoire, and delivers an astonishing new interpretation, focusing on the lyrical rather than the pyrotechnics in the Caprices - though there is ample virtuosity on display here! These works have never been exceeded in the challenges they present for the performer and as such are the ultimate studies for solo violin. Upon hearing Paganini play the Caprices for the first time, Liszt had serious doubts about his own abilities as a composer. In contrast, they inspired Schumann to abandon his chosen career as a writer and take up composition. The disc includes an insightful booklet essay by Ehnes on the composer and the music. Ehnes has a string of highly acclaimed releases on Onyx, including a Gramophone Award winning recording of the Elgar concerto.
James Ehnes revisits the most demanding work in the violin repertoire, and delivers an astonishing new interpretation, focusing on the lyrical rather than the pyrotechnics in the 24 Caprices -- though there is ample virtuosity on display here. There works have never been exceeded in the challenges they present for the performer and as such are the ultimate studies for solo violin. This Onyx release has been selected as the CD of the month in the January issue of Gramophone.
"This eminently popular and extremely challenging set of works for virtuoso solo violin naturally has attracted the interest of every major artist worthy of the name, resulting in a significant recorded legacy that's as much a tribute to the artists--Accardo, Perlman, Rabin, Ricci, Midori, etc.--as to Paganini's genius. However, if you're in the market for a first-rank--indeed superlative--recording of Paganini's masterpiece, look no further than this release from Canadian violinist James Ehnes.
While Ehnes may not readily embrace the "superstar" emblem, he is as deserving of that status as anyone, and not because his publicist and record company have declared it. He is simply a phenomenal violinist and extraordinary musician who, from the first bars of Caprice No. 1 commands your attention and never lets it wander through the next 75 or so minutes.
Unlike some violinists whose aim is simply to call attention to their dazzling technique and charismatic musicianship (which Ehnes has in spades!), as you listen to Ehnes, there's never a hint of exploitation--he's all business, all about the fire and passion in Paganini's outrageously extroverted signatures. And his technique is so smooth, so natural, you are not distracted by noticing such mundane, human impairments as physical effort, nor do you fail to appreciate his gifts for tonal allure and sheer dramatic flair--Paganini's technical obstacles are, well, just not obstacles at all. And that's just how it should be in these works, a tribute to the composer's uninhibited style and unfettered understanding of what the violin--and a skilled violinist--can do.
A critical observer easily can go through and dissect each one of the 24 caprices and judge Ehnes' approach relative to other benchmarks--but as far as I'm concerned, playing of this caliber stands on its own, apart from comparisons, no matter how judicious or thoughtful. Ehnes' performances are solid enough and authoritative enough that you can confidently choose this recording as your reference--and as a guaranteed, bedazzling journey through some of the violin repertoire's most awesome terrain. Highly recommended!"-classicstoday.com
BBC Music Magazine
Ehnes has returned to these coruscating 'finger-breakers' (as Ricci once described them), playing with the same glowing tonal finesse as before, but with a new lyrical intensity... Beguilingly played and expertly engineered, this deserves a place on anyone's shortlist of the Caprices.
Ehnes has recorded the Caprices before, in 1995, at the age of 19. Since then his view of the music hasn't changed a great deal... There's the same daring, bold approach, relying on exceptional technique to deliver an inner vision of each piece... what has changed is that Ehnes's technique has got even better, the intonation more precise, the bow control more sensitive. And the new recording adds an extra degree of clarity so that the playing makes a more vivid impact. Even a solitary listener will feel the desire to applaud the Presto section of No 11, with its jaunty rhythms and extraordinary leaps, or the quick staccato scales at the end of No 21.
Recording information: Wyastone Concert Hall, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth (05/2009-06/2009).
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Works DetailsNiccolò Paganini (Composer/Violin) (1782 - 1840) : Caprices (24) for Violin solo, Op. 1
- Performer: James Ehnes (Violin)
- Running Time: 72 min. 32 sec.
- Period Time: Romantic
- Written: circa 1817