Recorded at a concert held in Warwick Arts Centre last January, James Ehnes and his conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy bring a very purposeful opening to Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto before settling back into the familiar pulse for the first movement’s central section. The gorgeous ‘Marsick’ Stradivarius sings with a beauty of tone that continues into a central Andante that flows with more urgency than we usually encounter. Ehnes resists the now frequent dash through the finale, though it lacks nothing in excitement.
Though there is that sense of spontaneity of a live recording, it simply joins so many other recordings, none of which equal the memorable and interestingly paced performances from Oistrakh, Stern, Suk, Lin and Chung.
The coupling, however, may well influence choice by offering a most compelling account of Mendelssohn’s Octet taken from a Seattle concert in July 2010. The ensemble, led by Ehnes, captures the fire and vitality of the opening movement and brings abundant joy to the finale. We have recordings of the scherzo played with a lighter touch, but throughout the performance is technically impressive. Good sound quality in the concerto, but the Octet lacks some inner detail.