James Ehnes has established himself as one of the most sought-after violinists on the international stage. Gifted with a rare combination of stunning virtuosity, serene lyricism and an unfaltering musicality, Ehnes has performed in over 30 countries on five continents, appearing regularly with many of the world’s most well-known orchestras and conductors.
Ehnes last performed with the ASO in 2018, and we welcome him back to the stage this November at Symphony Series 8 – Vivacious where he will perform Barber’s Violin Concerto.
You play a “Marsick” Stradivarius from 1715, tell us about your instrument, what you love about it and perhaps anything you dislike about it?
I first saw the Marsick in November of 1996, and have been playing it regularly since 1999 – I love it very much! I feel like it has an enormous range of possibilities in terms of expression and colour, and it has an incredible purity and concentration of tone that never fails to inspire me.
During Symphony Series 8 – Vivacious you will be playing Barber’s Violin Concerto. Do you think the concert title aptly fits the concerto and how so?
I think that the Barber, like most great concerti, has a bit of everything! Certainly passages could be described as vivacious, but I think the overriding description for the first two movements would be lyrical, and the last movement would be virtuosic.
The concerto was written in 1939 – Samuel Fels commissioned Barber to write a concerto for his violin-playing son. What makes the piece one of the great American violin concertos?
The concerto really has a bit of everything. It has incredibly melodies (the oboe solo at the beginning of the 2nd movement must be one of the most beautiful melodies of the 20th century), wonderful interplay between the soloist and the orchestra, and tremendous virtuosity all around, particularly in the last movement. It’s just wonderful!
How familiar are you with the piece and how will you approach it differently with the ASO?
I have been lucky to have performed the piece a great deal over the course of my career, but one of the great joys of my job is that every collaboration is different. I don’t have any “plan” to approach the piece differently with the ASO, but I know it will take on a special life of its own, particularly in the wonderful acoustics of the glorious Adelaide Town Hall.
You last played with the ASO in 2018 and were scheduled to play in 2020 before COVID. What are you most looking forward to doing when you return to Adelaide?
It’s always a joy to play with the wonderful ASO, so of course that’s what I’m looking forward to the most! But I absolutely love Adelaide, and can’t wait to explore the botanical gardens and ride the bike trails down the river to the ocean – two activities I make sure to do on every trip!
Symphony Series 8 – Vivacious
Fri 25 & Sat 26 Nov
Adelaide Town Hall