JN Howard • Ker­nis • B Tovey

BBC Music Magazine - - Concerto -

Ehnes bows, picks and plucks his way to a fren­zied fin­ish

Ker­nis: Vi­o­lin Con­certo; JN Howard: Vi­o­lin Con­certo;

B Tovey: Stream of Lime­light

James Ehnes (vi­o­lin), An­drew Arm­strong (pi­ano); Seat­tle Sym­phony/lu­dovic Mor­lot; Detroit Sym­phony Orches­tra/cris­tian M celaru Onyx ONYX 4189 68:25 mins James Ehnes is one of the great vi­o­lin­ists of the day, so it’s no won­der com­posers are fall­ing over them­selves to write new things for him to play. This disc show­cases three com­mis­sions aimed squarely at the Cana­dian vir­tu­oso’s daz­zling skillset. At the cen­tre is a con­certo by James New­ton ★oward, a name cin­ema­go­ers will be fa­mil­iar with – in­deed, with a ca­reer span­ning over three decades, he is one of the most ac­com­plished of ★ol­ly­wood’s com­posers. The work, which fol­lows a prior 2015 con­cert com­mis­sion for the Pa­cific Sym­phony (and Ehnes), is lyri­cal, wildly ca­vort­ing and – in the An­dante sem­plice sec­ond move­ment – sweetly poignant.

Aaron Jay Ker­nis’s pre­ced­ing con­certo re­quires Ehnes to delve even deeper into his vir­tu­oso’s tool kit. With a highly charged first move­ment, Ker­nis sets out his stall with in­tense drama, be­fore a fab­u­lously film noir-ish sec­ond move­ment. Smokey, muted trum­pets, a song-like lamen­ta­tion on the vi­o­lin and a fris­son of kit-per­cus­sion make this a stand­out turn from both com­poser and soloist. The fi­nal move­ment is a wilder ex­ten­sion of this jazz-tinged mode, and the thrilling fi­nal minute-and-a-half sees Ehnes bow­ing, pick­ing and pluck­ing to a fren­zied fin­ish.

Bramwell Tovey’s Streams of Lime­light is a de­light­ful mu­si­cal con­ver­sa­tion be­tween vi­o­lin and pi­ano that, at times, feels like a si­lent movie score; the ‘di­a­logue’ turns on a dime be­tween hys­te­ria and ten­der sweet­ness.

The three record­ings here are top notch, par­tic­u­larly the two live con­certo per­for­mances, and the ap­plause and cheers on those are proof enough of the mas­tery on dis­play.

PER­FOR­MANCE

RECORD­ING

Hear ex­tracts from this record­ing and the rest of this month’s choices on the BBC Mu­sic Mag­a­zine web­site at www.clas­si­cal-mu­sic.com

In the lime­light: James Ehnes shines brightly

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