The Strad Issue: January 2014
Description: An outstanding collection of Prokofiev’s complete music for violin
Musicians: James Ehnes, Amy Schwartz Moretti (violin) Andrew Armstrong (piano) BBC Philharmonic/Gianandrea Noseda
Composer: Prokofiev

Gianandrea Noseda quietly raises the orchestral curtain on a performance of Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto that is arguably the finest on disc. James Ehnes’s playing is technically superb, a typical example coming with the quick bow retakes in the spiky second movement, where each one is perfectly equal in length and weight. Dynamics are meticulously observed and although tempos never sound hurried, they are, in general, among the most urgent of the many available recordings.

With a warming vibrato, Ehnes brings a bittersweet element to the recurring tranquillo sections of the Second Concerto’s first movement, and, where many soloists are found wanting, his intonation is spotlessly clean in the movement’s intertwining fast passages. He also impresses in the tender intimacy he brings to the Andante’s soaring melodies before he embarks on a finale full of brio.

The BBC Philharmonic is outstanding, though it is debatable that we would ever hear so much detail in the concert hall as that offered here with the help of microphones.

Moving to a different location, Ehnes is joined by Amy Schwartz Moretti for a delightful account of the Sonata for two violins, and he is equally impressive in his range of subtle colours that illuminate the many changing moods of the two sonatas with piano and the Five Melodies. Never reticent whenever the composer allows him scope to dominate proceedings, Andrew Armstrong is an admirable partner in a well-balanced recording that suggests an intimate chamber music venue as well as a tendency to compress dynamic range.

Clip: Prokofiev Violin Concerto, 1st mvt