WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 2; Scottish Fantasy
PERFORMER: James Ehnes (violin); Montreal SO/Mario Bernardi
CATALOGUE NO: SMCD 5222
The young Canadian violinist James Ehnes has recently been making considerable waves, impressing audiences with his beautiful, strong sound, accurate technique and his generous, imaginative musicianship. In both works here he resists any temptation to over-gild the Romantic lily, but neither does he adopt the safety-first interpretative tactics that many choose in the recording studio. It’s a brand of expressivity at once spontaneous and intelligent, and it helps promote what is an admittedly rare coupling over the illustrious partnership of Perlman, the Israel Philharmonic and Mehta in the benchmark stakes.
Ehnes brings real charm to the Scottish Fantasy. The recording is, however, firmly and unrealistically balanced in the soloist’s favour. Even though this is unquestionably a soloist’s piece it’s a pity that one sometimes has to strain to hear some of the orchestral detail. Even the harp soloist, who plays an important role, seems unduly distantly placed.
The same general questions of balance apply to the Second Violin Concerto, a fine work of deeper introspection and greater dramatic interaction. Ehnes duly applies a carefully gauged measure of gravitas, overlaying his reading with mellower, darker shades at least until the joyous release of the finale. The Montreal Symphony Orchestra’s role is well managed by conductor Mario Bernardi. Stephen Pettitt