Barber, Korngold, Walton: Violin Concertos
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Top Customer Reviews
Korngold's luscious concerto, written in a style I've always thought of as '1940s Hollywood chromatic' (think of Raksin's 'Laura' or Korngold's own film scores) was premiered by Heifetz in 1947 (recorded by him in a best-selling recording of the period) and incorporates themes from several of Korngold's film scores (e.g., Another Dawn, Juarez, Anthony Adverse and The Prince and the Pauper). Ehnes's tone is perhaps less cholesterol-rich than some but he plays this crowd-pleasing work with conviction and brilliance, using robust or delicate tone where called for. He is particularly effective in the songful middle movement and in the set of variations that make up the finale.
The story is well known of how Barber was commissioned to write his violin concerto for the protégé of a rich industrialist only to have the young violinist refuse to play it because the finale was technically too difficult. The first two movements brim with ultra-lyrical themes that are underscored by plush orchestral accompaniment that place the soloist directly in the spotlight. The finale -- presto in moto perpetuo -- is a knuckle-busting showpiece.Read more ›
Hilary Hahn was originally scheduled to play, but could not due to an illness. Ehnes was asked to fill in on Monday. While I'm a fan of Ms. Hahn, I think she would be hard pressed to play the Korngold any better than James Ehnes. How can you surpass perfection? -smile-
As for the Korngold, I had not heard it in thirty years. In hindsight, I greatly regret this. It is a magnificent work. At the end of the first movement, the word "WOW" kept going through my head. I found the second movement so emotionally moving, I had to bite my lip to keep from falling apart and disturbing the audience. A plus was the sound of James Ehnes's Stradivarius (on loan), which was so beautiful, especially in the upper ranges of the instrument.
This was a truly remarkable performance, by a truly remarkable talent. I think we will be seeing much more from this relatively young Canadian violinist in the future. I heard Perlman, Zukermann, and Yo-Yo Ma early in their careers. It would not surprise me in the least if Ehnes eventually reaches their ranks in terms of popularity. His playing very well may already be there. We will see.
After I receive the CD and have listened to it, I will edit this review. I have also ordered Shaham to compare.
As an aside, I remain delighted by the exceptionally high, world class level of playing by Houston Symphony. At this time, I can't think of a single orchestra that I would prefer to hear over this one. Eschenbach mined the diamonds, and Graf has cut and polished them to perfection.
The Korngold concerto is unusual insofar as the composer made extensive use of his previous successful film scores for thematic material. The Barber concerto is unusual insofar as the initial two movements are sufficiently focussed upon lyrical writing that the intended recipient complained that they did not contain sufficient display material but when faced with the contrasting fireworks of the final movement the same recipient complained of the movements extreme difficulty. The Walton concerto on the other hand, suffered from no such problems other than typical slowness in composition and then some revision.
All three works share an intense lyricism which has served both the Barber and Walton concertos well but the cinematic links to the Korngold concerto have been damaging and it has been difficult for it to get established upon the international concert circuit so far. This disc should help in that regard as Ehnes produces what seems to be a masterly performance of the Korngold playing it for its full romantic value and with complete technical assurance. Technical assurance is also vividly apparent in his delivery of the demanding final movement of the Barber concerto and of the challenging second movement of the Walton concerto while the strong lyrical requirements of all three concertos are equally well met.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Solely based on the playing, this is a 5-star performance. Ehnes is a tremendous violinist, and I love a lot of what he does in these recordings. Read morePublished on July 29, 2014 by david
Got this for the Korngold concerto. Haven't listened much to the Barber and Walton concertos. Got this recording as I was impressed with James Ehnes rendition of the Elgar... Read morePublished on July 19, 2013 by Pernickity
The selections and performance were beyond my expectations. I was particularly impressed with Korngold's Violin Concerto, and James Ehnes is a wonderful talent. Read morePublished on May 28, 2013 by L. Fox
What more can I say? Ehnes plays wonderfully and the concertos are not commonly heard. I liked the Walton the least, but that's my own preference, not a reflection on Ehnes, or... Read morePublished on November 29, 2012 by D. Fuller
A programme featuring my 3 favourite (Romantic) 20th Century Violin concertos is always going to get my attention, and it helps that the 3 composers in question are also masters of... Read morePublished on April 18, 2012 by Sebastien Maury
Of the three concertos I am most familiar with the Korngold, and already had recordings by Heifetz with Wallenstein and the LA Phil , and Perlman with Previn and the Pittsburgh... Read morePublished on December 3, 2009 by Ursiform
As far as I'm concerned, James Ehnes is the best violinist in the world. Strong statement? Yes. But I stand by it. Read morePublished on August 28, 2008 by Philip F. Jensen
Saw this artist last night playing Beethoven's exquisite Violin Concerto here in FL. Ehnes is a brilliant and incredibly gifted violinist. Read morePublished on May 30, 2008 by marew