Another success story from this inspired partnership

James Ehnes: Nielsen

The Strad Issue: June 2023

Description: Another success story from this inspired partnership

Musicians: James Ehnes (violin) Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Edward Gardner

Works: Nielsen: Violin Concerto; Symphony no.4 ‘The Inextinguishable’

Catalogue number: CHANDOS CHSA5311

James Ehnes plays the opening cadenza-like prelude of Nielsen’s Violin Concerto with sustained tonal beauty and a firm forward purpose that brings out its twisting roulades. In the second part of the first movement, the Allegro cavalleresco, he produces a glistening pyrotechnic display taken at a gallop. His interpretation reveals the quixotic element of the music as Nielsen shifts from one character to another, Ehnes in one place dancing, in another musing, and forever traversing the fingerboard with every appearance of ease. The cadenza is light and assured, with a clear underlying narrative, and he sprints confidently to the end of the movement with a sequence of high-spirited flourishes.

The second movement Poco adagio is a long and mysterious meditation, beautifully spun by violin and orchestra alike. After its upbeat opening, the closing Rondo section has an air of plaintive melancholy when it moves to G minor, with graceful dialogue between violin and wind. The orchestra summons up a powerful tutti storm before Ehnes embarks on the great cadenza, played as part folk elegy and part witty exhibitionist etude. The BPO and Edward Gardner are terrific partners to Ehnes, and they go on to give a powerful performance of Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony, with wind and brass on particularly fine form. The recording is full and clear.