James Ehnes

Artist Playlists

About James Ehnes

One of the most discerning violinists on the world circuit, James Ehnes has the rare ability to shine as a soloist in concerto performances of commanding authority, as well as in collaboration with other players in chamber music—not least in his own, much-admired Ehnes Quartet. That he was born (in 1976) in Canada rather than Europe or the United States may be a factor in his versatility, since the violin tradition there is relatively modest and hadn’t cultivated too many first-rank virtuosos until Ehnes came along. The child of performing artists, he took up his instrument at age four, was playing concerto dates as a teenager, and eventually went to study at The Juilliard School—where his skills were sharpened by the dazzling assertiveness of the string department. These days, he’s a go-to player for the 20th-century concerto repertoire—Barber, Bartók, Korngold, Walton—and a champion of new work by composers like Aaron Jay Kernis, whose 2017 concerto was premiered by Ehnes. In that other realm of chamber playing, he’s devoted recent years to a recorded cycle of Beethoven violin sonatas with pianist Andrew Armstrong that have fairly been called life-enhancing. And with his quartet he released another Beethoven cycle in 2021, shortly before he won Artist of the Year at the Gramophone Classical Music Awards. It was a popular decision, honoring a genial and valued player.

Brandon, MB, Canada
January 27, 1976

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