Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 10/5/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
In the classical music world, we don't often think of musicians as superstars. Brandon-born violinist James Ehnes could just be the exception to the rule.
His resumé comes heavily padded with awards, an extensive discography that never ceases to grow, a huge repertoire from which to choose and a touring schedule that would test even the most experienced flight attendant.
Add the fact he is as close to a hometown boy Winnipeggers are ever going to get and he's truly earned superstar status.
On Friday night, Ehnes' selection to play with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (WSO) was the little-heard Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, a work Ehnes has been playing since he was a teenager.
Ehnes hit the ground running in the Allegro con fermezza with a distinct folk dance feel, vigorous and busy. The movement is full of charismatic modulations, mood and tempo changes. Ehnes, playing his 1715 "Marsick" Stradivarius, put his heart into the melancholy but lyrical melody, a little Gypsy flavour finding its way in. Every phrase ended with a flourish and a series of double stops lent anticipation for what was to come. Ehnes has the ability to communicate, to take the audience along with him as he expresses so sensitively the composer's intentions. You can't ask more of an artist.
Even the cadenza, which is typically showy, was rendered only subtly so by Ehnes. He has nothing to prove.
The bassoon opened the Andante sostenuto with plaintive echoes of the ashugs, Armenian native minstrel poets. Ehnes reprised the theme with rich, long legato phrases, dripping with emotion. The entire orchestra, led by Alexander Mickelthwate, seemed to creep along with trepidation, basses and cellos anchoring the ensemble. This made for a wonderfully mysterious atmosphere.
Ehnes plays with unbelievable ease; the music seems to flow naturally from his fingers. He made his instrument sing and jig at the same time in the Allegro vivace, a fun and playful theme emerging, full of authentic and colourful musical heritage. Little ornamental touches added that extra spice. The endless technical demands posed no problem for Ehnes -- he can truly play anything.
He received a long standing ovation (even the orchestra wouldn't let him leave) and played an encore -- the Largo from Bach's Sonata No. 3 with gentle simplicity. Brahms' lush Symphony No. 1 in C minor completed the evening. Intimidated with the responsibility of following in Beethoven's successful symphonic footsteps, Brahms fussed bit by bit over the work before allowing it to be performed in public some two decades later.
It's hard to beat the drama of the opening movement and its many satisfying ebbs and flows. Mickelthwate gave this a well-thought out reading, managing the bold and the beautiful handily. The WSO was in top form, playing throughout with controlled power.
It was a treat to hear the rumbling contra bassoon, and both the oboe and clarinet solos in the patiently paced second movement were absolutely pristine.
The concert repeats tonight at 8 p.m.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 5, 2013 A29
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
US inspector finds Beyonce, Jay-Z Cuba trip legal
Arden admits to 'low shots' in radio rivalry
Far from last dance
Petty shows he's got staying power
Mento performer Joseph 'Powda' Bennett dies at 76
Joel, Wonder, Brooks to receive ASCAP honours
'Blacc Hollywood' tops HMV Canada CD sales chart
Cape Breton fiddler Buddy MacMaster dies
Photographer sues Bieber over Hawaii altercation
Bring on the screams: 5 MTV VMA boy band moments
Chemistry only deepens for Tom Petty and longtime collaborators the Heartbreakers
Miami museum promotes exhibit with salsa contest
Gilberto spreads her 'Bebel Sound' in new album
Parents group puts MTV on notice
Canadian rock band Moist to play at Burton Cummings Theatre
Singer Ray J denies crimes at Beverly Hills hotel
Trisha Yearwood re-emerges twice as busy
US court grants new appeal hearing for Buju Banton
'Blacc Hollywood' among new CD releases
'Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix, Vol. 1' top album on iTunes in Canada
IsKwé finally gets chance to live up to hype
Country Crue: Nashville embraces heavy metal
Judge closes Flavor Flav battery case in Las Vegas
Taylor Swift to release new album on Oct. 27
Judge rejects rapper Meek Mill's appeal of term
Deadmau5 takes aim at R&B singer Trey Songz
Sheepdogs may be spotted in Prince Edward Island
Review: 'Smokey & Friends' duets nice, not vital
Review: Country artists rock out for Motley Crue
Review: Rice has clever take on new country sound
Review: R&B singer Tank unbalanced on 'Stronger'
Review: Amy Grant shows another side with remixes
Ace Frehley outta this world on 'Space Invader'
Review: Coryell sings of love, lust on new album
Review: Artists cover landmark Johnny Cash album
Smokey Robinson, still writing, duets with friends
Boeckner starts again again with Operators
The run of his life: John Einarson remembers 'Decker's Dash'
Actor Michael Cera's album not a 'big thing'