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Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto; Octet

Audio Samples

>Mendelssohn, Felix : Concerto for Violin in D minor
>Mendelssohn, Felix : Octet for strings in E flat major, Op. 20

Album Summary

>Mendelssohn, Felix : Concerto for Violin in D minor
>Mendelssohn, Felix : Octet for strings in E flat major, Op. 20
Performers Conductor Ensemble
  • >
Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto is one of the composer’s greatest works and one of the most popular concertos in the repertoire. Making his first recording of the work, James Ehnes is partnered here by Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Philharmonia Orchestra, recorded live. The astonishingly precocious Octet, written when Mendelssohn was just 16, is given a sparking and vivacious performance by James and his friends from the Seattle Chamber Music Society.

"Bringing something new to established repertoire: surely that's the ultimate test of any artist. If so, James Ehnes has done it again, in a Mendelssohn coupling identical to Daniel Hope's (though the British violinist performed the unfamiliar earlier edition of the Concerto).

The first thing that hits you about Ehnes's reading is the rhythmic propulsion of the concerto's outer movements, which lifts the music, revealing its glorious bone structure. In the hands of lesser musicians than Ehnes and Ashkenazy this could simply sound fast, yet there is so much compelling, beautifully observed phrasing that the effect is instead completely uplifting. It's there again in the first movement of the Octet, and once more the sense is of a joyous, exhilarating ride rather than anything overly driven. Ehnes is a musician of consummate imagination (and technique!) coupled with a lack of ego that is completely winning. Just sample the way he and his Seattle Chamber Music colleagues judge the coda of the Octet's Allegro moderato ma con fuoco. Con fuoco indeed.

Another aspect which is particularly winning is the creaminess of Ehnes's lower register, so you really appreciate the lows (literally) as well as the highs in the Concerto. The Andante movements of both works are characterised by a caressing but never cloying approach (a million miles away from Mutter's recent live recording of the concerto). I continue to return to Joshua Bell for his irresistible sound in the Concerto's slow movement, and to Hilary Hahn for a freshness comparable to Ehnes, but this is absolutely up there with the best of them.

As for the Octet, sample the Scherzo and see if you're not won over. Of course, everyone has their own favourite in this much-recorded work, but I certainly don't plan to live without this new version." -Gramophone

The Telegraph
Ehnes's gorgeous, supple tone is combined with that instinct for a composer's distinctive character that makes his interpretations so compelling. Ashkenazy conducts with delicacy and strength...Ehnes's innate sensibility draws him into the music's milieu for a performance that is outstanding and unreservedly recommended.

The Observer
Brisk tempi mark out James Ehnes's reading of Mendelssohn's perennial concerto; there is nothing cloying or sentimental, even in the luscious slow movement where lesser violinists are tempted to wallow. Instead, he gives a beautifully sincere, unaffected performance.

Gramophone Magazine
The first thing that hits you about Ehnes's reading is the rhythmic propulsion of the concerto's outer movements, which lifts the music, revealing its glorious bone-structure...the sense is of a joyous, exhilarating ride rather than anything overly driven...Another aspect which is particularly winning is the creaminess of Ehnes's lower register...this is absolutely up there with the best of them.

International Record Review
His tone...is sweet in all registers and the intonation true.

Classic FM Magazine
The Octet has rarely sounded more symphonic as Ehnes and his Seattle friends demonstrate all the energy and wit of chamber playing at its most dazzling. Ehnes gives an elegant, refined account of the Violin Concerto that highlights its unconventional structure, but it's not without emotion. Including the exhilarating Octet makes it unmissable.



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Works Details

>Mendelssohn, Felix : Concerto for Violin in D minor
  • Performer: James Ehnes (Violin)
  • Conductor: Vladimir Ashkenazy
  • Running Time: 26 min. 5 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Concerto
  • Written: 09/16/1844
  • Studio/Live: Live

>Mendelssohn, Felix : Octet for strings in E flat major, Op. 20
  • Performers: Andrew Wan (Violin); Augustin Hadelich (Violin); Erin Keefe (Violin); Robert deMaine (Cello); Edward Arron (Cello); Richard O'Neill (Viola); James Ehnes (Violin); Cynthia Phelps (Viola)
  • Running Time: 30 min. 2 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Chamber Music
  • Written: 10/15/1825