Elgar: Violin Concerto & Serenade for Strings (CD)

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James Ehnes, Philharmonia Orchestra, Andrew Davis

Sure to be one of the outstanding recordings for Elgar anniversary year, this quite outstanding Violin Concerto was recorded live in May at two performances given during the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Elgar series under the direction of outstanding Elgarian Sir Andrew Davis.
Davis has performed the Violin Concerto with many players over the years (though this is his first recording of it) and maintains that Ehnes "is the finest of them...he actually plays what Elgar wrote and so musically!"
Classical Source wrote: "inspired a newly refreshed love for a familiar work. His intonation was impeccable, his control of the differing emotional elements was impressive and the end was truly magnificent, a fitting climax to a memorable interpretation." (17 May 2007) 
Ehnes gets better and better. Still only 30 this young Canadian is increasingly being recognised as one of the 4 or 5 most complete violinists on the planet. His previous ONYX release of Barber, Korngold and Walton Violin Concertos (ONYX4016) was universally praised, including Record of the Week in the Daily Telegraph and “an outstanding release in every way” from Edward Greenfield in Gramophone
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Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 61

Serenade for Strings in E minor, Op. 20

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Gramophone Magazine

“Even before the review was in, a well-meaning soul placed this disc on my desk. This, my benefactor assured me, was not just “another Elgar” for the anniversary – it was something special. So it proves. Ehnes finds glowing tone and inspiration throughout in a beautiful yet penetrating reading. Will it displace my beloved Kennedy or Kang? Time will tell.”

Gramophone Magazine

Janurary 2008

“Not since Nigel Kennedy's 1997 remake with Sir Simon Rattle and the CBSO (EMI, 1/98) have I heard an account of the Elgar as thrillingly combustible, imaginative and involving as this. Davis's utterly unforced and ravishingly moving account of the entrancing Serenade makes a cherishable pendant.”

BBC Music Magazine

January 2008


“James Ehnes has a lovely ripe vibrato and an expressive openness that touches the heart from his first entry. It's when it comes to the balancing of confessional intimacy with symphonic purposefulness that I'm not so convinced. Ehnes does try to drive the music forward in places, but the impression is more of spurts of activity amidst long stretches of dreamy lyricism.”

Gramophone Classical Music Guide


“Not since Nigel Kennedy's 1997 EMI remake with Sir Simon Rattle and the CBSO has the Elgar received a recording as thrillingly combustible, imaginative and involving as this.
James Ehnes brings to this great concerto a rapt identification, tingling temperament and glowing ardour. Not only is Ehnes's technical address impeccable and intonation miraculously true, his contribution is remarkable for its intrepid emotional scope, athletic agility and (perhaps above all) jaw-dropping delicacy (nowhere more heart-tuggingly potent than in the finale's accompanied cadenza).
Ehnes is also fortunate in enjoying the support of Sir Andrew Davis, a proven Elgarian whose wonderfully perceptive conducting has authoritative sweep, elasticity and fiery passion to spare as well as a very special understanding of those moments of aching intimacy in which this of all scores abounds: what a ravishing backcloth he provides for the ineffable appearance of the 'Windflower' theme in the same movement; and how affecting are the strings' songful sighs in the ensuing Andante. One or two unruly timpani thwacks aside, the Philharmonia's response exhibits polish, grace and dedication.
Some might take issue with the sound which is a little shrouded and lacking something in alluring bloom (the actual balance is otherwise very much as you would hear from a seat in the stalls).
No matter, this remains a performance of conspicuous pedigree and insight guaranteed to make you fall in love all over again with this sublime music and which can only boost Ehnes's standing as one of the most gifted and charismatic fiddlers around. Davis's utterly unforced and ravishingly moving account of the entrancing Serenade makes a cherishable pendant.”

Penguin Guide

2011 edition

“[an] excpetionally subtle and understand account of the Elgar Violin Concerto. [Ehnes's] half-tones are ravishing, and though he uses a wide vibrato the result is anything but sentimental..Andrew Davis's lilting account of the Serenade for Strings makes an excellent fill-up.”

Presto Classical

James Longstaffe

May 2014

“ The fiendish passagework of the third movement seems to cause Ehnes no trouble at all, and there is playing of great poise in the second movement.”