What would you ask James Ehnes?

December 3, 2008 at 07:03 PM ·

Hi everyone! I'll be interviewing violinist James Ehnes in the next few weeks, so please tell me any questions you have for him!

We'll talk about his career and also about his new project, Homage, a CD/DVD set  in which he plays the David Fulton Collection of Violins and Violas. He gives a written description of each of the 12 instruments, and plays various pieces to feature their best qualities. Here's the little teaser about it:

Replies (28)

December 3, 2008 at 07:29 PM ·

Since James Ehnes > Sliced Bread, I would be interested in anything he has to say about practicing.  And, what is next on the recording studio agenda?  Thanks!

December 3, 2008 at 08:19 PM ·

You'll obviously be talking a lot about hardware, so don't forget to ask what violin and bow(s) he normally uses.

December 3, 2008 at 08:27 PM ·

Hi Laurie:


   It will be exciting to see an interview with James.  Would you please ask him:

- How he achieved his techinique skills (being able to play all 24 Paganini capprici and concertos by Paganini and Wieniawski)

- His thoughts on learning and performing mordern music (including new commission)

- His instruments (violin and bows)

- What his future plans are (does he plan to teach etc.)


Thanks and keep up the good work!

December 3, 2008 at 10:09 PM ·


what are his views on scales? Does he have any specific approach or favorite method of praciticng them?

How does he approach learning a work for the first time?




December 4, 2008 at 01:15 AM ·

What is his favorite strings and does he uses them?

What would he say to the young average or late bloomers musicians who want to go in music? Do too many kids dream of something that is sadly irrealistic? A common view is that it is better to aim to the serious amateur option because you can have opportunities and positions that you would never have as a professionnal in a professionnal group. Agree or not? Is the "risk" as big as everyone sees it or does it really depends on what type of career you want (teacher and/or performer)

What is his favorite piece,concerto (even if not classical)

Who is his biggest idol(s)?

Does he have a dream linked or not with music that he really wants to achieve someday?

Does he find the teaching "methods" to commercial. We often say that, because of this, the children end up all the "same" and that quantity primes over quality.

Nice initiative to interview performers Laurie!


December 4, 2008 at 03:12 AM ·

Hi Laura,

James teacher told me that she wants to bring him back to Meadowmount. Meadowmount is now a sponsor at  v.com, just curious what his thoughts are about that.



December 4, 2008 at 06:29 AM ·

Will he marry me?  (Naw...)

December 4, 2008 at 06:43 AM ·

Does he have any teachers to whom he feels particularly indebted?

What does he feel he got from them that was particularly important? 

December 4, 2008 at 07:05 PM ·

Hi Laurie:

My first question concerns a seldom talked intrument, The "Haddock" Guarnerius del Gesù of 1734.

This instrument was for sometime in the collection of Mr Fulton. It reappeared in 1990 after more than a hundred years. One of the owner was violinist Thomas Mawkes who bought the instrument circa 1832, on the advice of Louis Spohr. The Hills stated a document or a letter where Spohr mentionned to Mawkes that this particular del Gesù was "one of the best instrument in the world" and that he would have give his own Stradivari in exchange...

I would like to know if James got acquainted with that particular instrument and his impression. It was featured sometime ago in a Strad issue and seems to be in perfect condition, like "La Pucelle" Stradivari or the "King Joseph"...

Also, my second question, we often make comparaisons between Stradivaris violins and Del Gesù's...

I would like to know about the comparaison between various del Gesù's , like the "Haddock", the "Kreisler"( The one owed by the Library of Congress), the "King Joseph", the "Lord Wilton", and the "Heifetz David", all instruments James had an experience with. Just a general impression about each of these famous del Gesù...


Best regards,





December 4, 2008 at 05:27 PM ·

Can you investigate his interest in the history of violin playing and the possible interest in recording concertos by violinist composers?  A few concertos that I know he would like but does not have are the Sauret, Sitt #1, and Sitt #2 concertos.  Or how about a solo album?  I'll give him free sheet music all day!  www.jonathanfrohnen.com/collection.html

Keep up the good work and congrats on the Grammy and the DVD!


December 4, 2008 at 06:28 PM ·


This is like trying to come up with questions to ask God...  But, maybe:

- He seems to always be at the service of the music and nothing else.  So my question, is how does he manage to maintain that focus and seemingly never about himself?

- Also, his level of concentration in performance, having seen him many, many times, seems second to none.  So, does he have suggestions on how to acheive and maintain that?

And lastly, just to thank him for the wonderful violinist, musician, artist and person that his is!



December 7, 2008 at 07:41 PM ·

two questions:

why is the CD/DVD being released in Canada before the US?

The recordings on the Fulton instruments appear to be made in a studio with rather lively acoustics, with multiple mikes.   Was there ever a consideration to record in a dryer, larger hall, to test the projection of these instruments?

December 7, 2008 at 08:19 PM ·

I have questions for him about his early days:

  • "What was the turning point in your career? What made you go from student to professional. Was there a "certain turning point" or did it just happen gradually?"
  • "Who/what were your influences growing up?  Who/what made you choose the style to play in which you have today. or did it just develop over your life and shape your style?"


December 8, 2008 at 02:23 PM ·

How do you play an open D, open E and also a B on the a string all together and get them all in tune??

Answers on  a postcard plz

December 8, 2008 at 03:28 PM ·

Use CMT -- Canadian Meantone Temperament.

December 8, 2008 at 09:29 PM ·

I had the opportunity to see the DVD this past weekend. UNBELIEVABLE!!! So I have another question that may interest many violinists on this site:


How did he acquire such a fast staccato, so clean, and so clear with crystaliine sound: Hora Staccato is among the very best I heard so far... and it is played with great musical taste!!! And there is something very similar to Heifetz technic I have noticed in holding the bow, only in that particular matter ( turning the stick towards the bridge...)

December 8, 2008 at 09:38 PM ·

My usual question for artists such as Maestro Ehnes: What advice does he have for us amateurs to achieve better technique. We're not prodigies and will never play in a top major orchestra, but we all want to improve.

December 8, 2008 at 10:38 PM ·

Mr. Ehnes is undoubtably one of the greatest players around.  Each time I hear or see him playing, I am awestruck by his technical mastery of the instruments.  I, like most people her, would love some insight into how he achieved such mastery...I would love to hear about any advice he has regarding practicing, scales, intonation, shifting etc...also, his performing is always extremely secure...I wonder if he has a preparation regimen...?  Thanks Laurie

December 10, 2008 at 02:23 PM ·

Has James always liked playing on Strad or would he use Del Gesu to concertize in the future?

January 4, 2009 at 03:45 PM ·


Whatever happened to this thread, this interview? Did I miss it somehow?


January 6, 2009 at 05:35 AM ·

I'll tell you what happened, the holidays! It seems that it takes a while to do these interviews, but you won't miss it when I do! ;)

February 16, 2009 at 10:44 PM ·

Hi everyone, I'll be talking with him on Wednesday, so let me know ASAP if you have any more questions to submit! :)

February 17, 2009 at 03:16 AM ·


First thank him for his generosity.  I saw him play in Montreal, he was very generous! We are very lucky to have such a  great  musician.

Second, if he could at any time, play on any of the instruments of the DVD , would he choose to sometimes play with some of those, or does he has a "special relation" with his actual violin, so he feels he always will do better with his actual violin, or at least his more confortable performing with his actual violin (and  I'm shure friend)

February 17, 2009 at 03:42 AM ·

I would like to know how his relationship with Sally Thomas currently stands...are they close as before (during his Julliard/Meadowmount days) and does he ever seek her advice professionally nowadays?

How has his recent (2008) Grammy win changed his life?

Which conductors does he connect well with or in other words, which conductors does he constantly find himself scheduling time and time again (this could also be asked with which orchestra as well...)?

Are there any concertos or repertoire that he does not like to perform?

February 17, 2009 at 08:57 PM ·

Do you have a favorite unaccompanied Bach sonata or partita?  If not, any favorite indiviudual movements?

February 17, 2009 at 09:13 PM ·

The instrument he is playing was choosed by him or Mr. Fulton?

Jose Martinez-Canas

February 17, 2009 at 09:21 PM ·

The instrument he is permanently playing (lent to him) was choosed by him or Mr. Fulton?

Jose Martinez-Canas

February 18, 2009 at 11:17 AM ·

Hello Laurie,

Ironically my copy of the DVD arrived yesterday. Wow, simply fantastic and what an undertaking they ALL made and what a "public service". Certainly as close to any of these gems as I will ever get.

As for questions...

  1. All the same chinrest, because that is the type James uses? I assume so
  2. I noticed , if my eyes did not deceive me, different brands of strings...by design?
  3. Personally, what kind of bow(s) does he use
  4. What kind of mute was he using?

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