Violinist James Ehnes: opinions?

June 8, 2004 at 02:56 PM · Just saw James Ehnes perform the Mendelssohn concerto with the Seattle symphony. Just wondering if anyone else had seen/heard him. He plays on the Marwick Strad, and let me tell you, as someone who sat in the third row, it looks and sounds absolutely perfect!

Replies (45)

June 8, 2004 at 03:33 PM · He's a great violinist! I've been lucky enough to both meet him and see him perform a couple of times. Really nice guy and a great violinist! My violin teacher knows him well and I've heard a lot of really neat stories from when he first started violin.

For the record, the Marsick Strad that he plays (I've done some research) is not the one Oistrakh played. It is a really gorgeaus instrument though and he certaintly puts it to good use! I can hardly belive 10 recordings already and more one the way!

June 8, 2004 at 06:04 PM · he's very good

June 8, 2004 at 07:53 PM · I have only hear a recording of his Paganini Caprices. Excellent playing that compares with that of Michael Rabin.

June 8, 2004 at 07:57 PM · Comparable to Rabin? Really?

Wow.

June 8, 2004 at 08:33 PM · He really is an oustanding violinist! He played a flawless Sibelius when he came to Tampa!

June 9, 2004 at 12:55 AM · He's one of the best violinists out there today, and I'd be willing to bet he'll be remembered as one of the greatest of all time. His playing has everything any listener or critic could possibly want - wit, grace, warmth, sensitivity, spirituality, and above all, beauty... He is definitely, without any doubt, my favorite violinist and the one I respect and admire the most. If I didn't have his performances to inspire me, I doubt I'd still be involved in the violin world today.

When he comes to the Seattle Chamber Music Festival this July, you ought to try and meet him if you can...he's a very kind and quick-witted fellow with a great sense of humor.

Musically, Emily

June 9, 2004 at 01:58 AM · i think he has yet to release anything less than superb, and his solo bach is especially great. outstanding talent, and a promising future.

June 9, 2004 at 02:46 AM · I went to his beethoven concert when he came to london. It was very very good but i got a bad seat so i couldn't see him at all.

June 9, 2004 at 02:54 AM · I have heard James play on the radio and on CD, and he sounds fabulous... a true musician.

I know Ms. Sally Thomas, his former teacher (and my own!), is very proud of him. She mentions his name at most of my lessons in some context.

June 9, 2004 at 07:18 PM · He's an outstanding musician. I mean, if you put on a concert of all 24 caprices in one evening as he did at the age of 19 before he recorded them, you are obviously going to have a bright future.

James is not only a great musician (his Bach is....no words...) but a very fine person. We kept on running into each other mainly at his concerts and masterclasses and feel honoured that he calls me his friend and very priviledged for his advice in music school and teacher selections. (He was a major deciding factor in my decision to study at meadowmount with Ms. Thomas rather than at Aspen with Delay. Very happy I made the right decision).

Anyway, here's to Jimmy.

*clink*

Preston

P.S. It's a GREAT instrument the Marsick. From the Foulton Collection in Seattle(?). Apparently (according to Ms. Thomas) Foulton heard Jimmy play and told him to go find a violin he (James) liked so he could add it to his collection and let James play it for as long as he liked. James chose it over a $4 million Guarneri. Though, an excellent sounding violin still doesn't sound like anything when it's just sitting in a case.

June 9, 2004 at 07:53 PM · i dont know about "one of the greatest of all time" but he's certainly got a unique and wonderful style

June 9, 2004 at 10:31 PM · You just wait, Owen. I think you'll be surprised. :)

Very respectfully, and musically, Emily

June 9, 2004 at 10:58 PM · yes we shall :)

June 10, 2004 at 12:31 AM · I recall hearing him on the radio, and I couldn't figure out the player. I'd never heard him before, but it was really different. However, I still favour other violinist, even some modern ones, over him.

As for playing the 24 caprices, didn't some 14 year old play them all at Carnegie Hall a couple months ago?

June 10, 2004 at 01:04 AM · some 14 year old... ha.

June 10, 2004 at 02:44 AM · oh her? hahah. yeah. but not very well i might add if its who im thinking of.

June 10, 2004 at 04:49 AM · Greetings,

who are you thinking of?

Cheers,

Buri

June 10, 2004 at 07:44 AM · Elisabeth Woo

June 10, 2004 at 12:06 PM · Isn't she a student of Albert Markov?

June 10, 2004 at 01:51 PM · ughhhhhh. no comment. i dont know him but i know her playing.

June 10, 2004 at 04:08 PM · How is she as a violinist?

June 10, 2004 at 04:47 PM · I read that she is supposed to be a child prodigy, and after all, Alexander Markov is a good violinist so he must be a very good teacher.

June 10, 2004 at 05:03 PM · i dont follow that logic

June 10, 2004 at 05:43 PM · Markov--the father--himself was a very good violinist/soloist, he studied with the great Yankelevich, and in turn, taught his son Alexander--who won the Paganini Competition. So based on the fact that as a teacher Markov was successful before, I think it would be safe to assume that his students would be on a very good level.

June 10, 2004 at 07:26 PM · u would think so.... but ive heard differently. andi ve heard her play them.

June 10, 2004 at 08:35 PM · are there any reviews of that concert?

June 10, 2004 at 09:19 PM · good violinist doesnt always equal good teacher

June 10, 2004 at 09:52 PM · yeah, but good violinist who has taught his own son, who is a soloist in his own right, is a pretty good sign.

June 10, 2004 at 10:07 PM · Albert Markov accepted me as a student at MSM but I couldn't afford to go there. I've heard he's a phenominal teacher and that people wait years to try and get lessons with him. This might be an exagguration as I really don't know much about him at all.

Preston

June 10, 2004 at 10:29 PM · Preston, where did you decide to go instead?

June 10, 2004 at 10:44 PM · i wasn't saying he isnt a good teacher, just that good violinst doesnt necessarily translate to good teacher, but if people say he's an excellent teacher then he probably is. HIs technique is quite amazing.

June 11, 2004 at 12:04 AM · I decided to go to Mannes. Didn't graduate from Mannes though. I left after Sept. 11. Didn't feel safe.

Preston

June 11, 2004 at 02:07 AM · I'm here to tell you that a good violinist is not always a good teacher! I had mostly good teachers, but the one who wasn't was a fabulous violinist. Couldn't relate to (or address) my struggles!

June 11, 2004 at 02:49 AM · I definetly agree with, Laurie and Owen! I had a teacher who was a great violin player but just didn't have the knack to teach and explain things that made sense to me as a small child, I've been lucky though, all my teachers since, and for the most part people I've played for in masterclasses and such have been both excellent performers and teachers, but you can definetly be a great player, but not a good teacher and vice versa.

June 11, 2004 at 03:37 AM · Greetings,

I had one of the finest violinists in Europe as a teacher when I was a boy. With hindsight I realize his teaching stank to high heaven,

Cheers,

Buri

June 11, 2004 at 04:12 AM · Stephen,

I have had a similar experience. I think some of the best teachers are those that got where they because they had to work VERY hard to attain perfection. Often ultra-hyper talented players have no clue how to verbally relay what they do physically to create a pleasing tone. They've never had to think about it, they just do it. If you don't think about something to figure it out, how on earth are you going to tell someone else how to do it?

I've found myself struggling not to say things like..."Well, just do it" or "You just..." (and then demontrate) when I'm teaching my own students. Not that I'm hyper-talented, but many things did come naturally to me as a child.

Preston

June 11, 2004 at 04:26 AM · Greetings,

exactly. My teacher studied with Antonia Brosa, a superb violinist who I think really did teach pretty much with no explanation , or there was some kind of conflcit between what he said and what he was doing. I have come across a number of his studnets who either adopted hte same approac or left more confused than when they started,

Cheers,

Buri

June 11, 2004 at 04:28 AM · Greetings,

sorry, what I also meant to add was that I spent a lot of time in the world of bodybuilding and the top guys really knew about how the body functions etc. But one comment always stuck in my mind from one of the all time greats, Dorian Yates, whose back was big enough to have the Berlin Phil perform on. He was innundated with request about his back training to the point he wrote an open letter n a major publication saying `Why ask me about back training? Whatever I do my back grows. Why don`t you ask me about my biceps which are my genetically weakest body part. I have spent more years researchi ng and experimenting with my weakness here than you could possibly imagine. this is the topic I actually know something about.`

Cheers,

Buri

June 12, 2004 at 09:22 PM · I have all Ehnes's recordings, based on some of which,(Solo Bach- makes me think it's as close as one might get to the recording King David never made; Paganini Caprices, the most musically unforced; Bruch Concertos, and the latest Czech album), I think he does rate with the greatest, and there's hardly anyone around now I believe that can be ever said about.

But I've heard other things, records, broadcasts and just the one live performance of the Beethoven, where I felt something missing: an element of deeper imagination, of adventurousness, of charisma,of individual imprint which is hard to define. No question, his sound is something special, one of the very very few individual tones that stand out nowadays, and his style is always exquisitely elegant. And yet, sometimes, I find it rather square: I know plenty of people will disagree, but I wonder if some share these contradictory impressions I have, and which frankly, leave me a little perplexed.

Best, Nathaniel

June 12, 2004 at 11:17 PM · The new Faure and Schumann piano quintet's album he is on is excellent!

I can hardly wait for the Dohnanyi!

I'm not sure I'd agree that his tone is square so to speak, or that his playing is square, but I would say he could probably dig in a bit more on some of the pieces he plays. He plays everything with such clarity and elegance, sometimes I find in pieces like the Janacek sonata that there needs to be a little less beauty to get the real beauty in such a piece across. I did feel though that his live performance I attended of the Saint-Saens third concerto, and his Paganini performances portrayed a bit more of that then his recordings give way to.

June 13, 2004 at 02:28 AM · I love his playing!

June 13, 2004 at 05:05 AM · I also saw him play the Saint-Saens #3 and I was wowed by how commanding his performance was - kind of like watching Oistrakh play.

One particular spiccato passage in the third movement floored me because it was so tidy, clean and elegant. His bow arm was so 'perfect'.

Listening to him live was not at all what I had expected, based on listening to his recordings. Not that it was better or worse, just way different.

June 13, 2004 at 03:33 PM · Sorry to go back to Elizabeth Woo, but I noticed that her 24 Caprices recital was advertised in the Strad magazine. The funny thing is I received the magazine with the ad in it a few days after the recital had actually happened!

June 13, 2004 at 04:02 PM · I want to throw in one more comment on the Saint-Saens performance!

The artificial harmonics passage at the end of the slow movement was really amazing! You could hardly tell that there were more then one instrument playing it was just so great! And that spiccato passage that Gabriel mentioned also sticks out in mind as another really clean phenomenal spot.

That whole concert was amazing! Can't go wrong with the OSQ and Yoav Talmi!!

September 26, 2004 at 06:02 AM · A wonderful sound coupled with incredible virtuosity.

I saw him in concert in Toronto a number of years ago and it was phenomenal. His technique allows him to do anything he wants with the violin.

My only reservation would be his vibrato usage which has a certain 'sameness' to it for lack of a better expression.

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