WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org
Welcome to ArkivMusic, the retail store for Minnesota Public Radio!

Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto, Etc / Ehnes, Ashkenazy, Sydney Symphony


Release Date: 01/10/2012 
Label:  Onyx   Catalog #: 4076  
Composer:  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  James Ehnes
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sydney Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  
On sale! $24.98
CD:  $21.99
In Stock



Notes and Editorial Reviews



TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto. Sérénade mélancolique. Valse-Scherzo. Souvenir d’un lieu cher 1 James Ehnes (vn); Vladimir Ashkenazy 1 (pn, cond); Sydney SO ONYX 4076 (69:43)


James Ehnes and the Sydney Symphony conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy give a technically alert and tonally elegant account of the first Read more movement of Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto propelled by strong accents in passagework and made exceptionally ingratiating by Ehnes’s tonal beauty in lyrical passages, in particular those on the lower strings. Together with Ashkenazy and the orchestra, he generates such high voltage in the climactic passages with which Leopold Auer tampered most aggressively that it’s hard to understand why Auer found such intervention necessary (Fritz Kreisler also tried his hand at rewriting portions of the concerto). Ehnes’s playing in the cadenza sounds razor-sharp. Bringing the first movement to a visceral close, he and the orchestra accelerate bracingly into the final passage. Ehnes’s playing of the slow movement sounds subtly plaintive and nuanced, with well-judged portamentos to enhance its effect. He digs into the transition to the last movement with biting authority, and the rapid tempo he adopts in the movement proper maintains the excitement at fever pitch. Once again, the lyrical episodes sound poignant. So what could be missing? Could it be that while Ehnes pushes all the right buttons at just the right time, he doesn’t mark the work with a bold signature proclaiming “David Oistrakh,” “Jascha Heifetz,” “Mischa Elman”—or, more importantly, “James Ehnes”? There may be elements of personal handwriting in the playing, but, as mentioned, not bold ones. That’s why it’s hard to agree uncritically with those who have identified Ehnes (albeit in puff pieces) as the Heifetz of our time (of course, violinists like Isaac Stern also bore that appellation, even while Heifetz lived and performed). Heifetz—together with Nathan Milstein, Zino Francescatti, Joseph Szigeti, Mischa Elman, and even less strongly characterized violinists like Leonid Kogan and Henryk Szeryng—all of them sealed everything they played with an unmistakable stamp. Arguably that seal, rather than any technical superiority, made them the Heifetzes, Milsteins, and so forth, of the lamented Golden Age. (Itzhak Perlman once commented in an interview that he could never be sure about Henryk Szeryng’s identity when he heard him without an introduction.)


That’s not to say that Ehnes’s reading of the concerto doesn’t have a great deal to offer to listeners. And in the Sérénade mélancolique , he continues in the same grand manner, with heartfelt and atmospheric cantabile , insinuatingly subtle, in the outer sections and soaring central climaxes. The clear recorded sound separates and characterizes the timbres of the accompanying instruments with a sharp focus not possible in recorded performances of the Golden Age. The composer’s Valse-Scherzo sounds sprightly in Ehnes’s performance, but also warm and rich in lower-register passages and strongly vaulting in the higher ones. Ehnes’s reading of the Souvenir d’un lieu cher (with Ashkenazy at the piano), which the composer had originally intended to be the concerto’s slow movement, gives Ehnes opportunities for the same soulful playing with which he performed the Canzonetta that replaced it. The Scherzo, in this performance, alternates driving energy with nearly irresistible expressive urgency, while the Mélodie , timbrally rich and emotionally redolent, still falls short of Milstein’s elegant nobility.


Onyx doesn’t provide those who have purchased the CD with biographies of the soloist, orchestra, and conductor, but require them to visit a website to obtain them. Would you buy shelving, the directions for which appeared only online (it’s hard enough with them in your hand)?


Only a narrow-minded ax-grinder would withhold a recommendation from such a program. But, as Bishop Butler once observed, “A thing is what it is and not another thing,” a dictum on which British philosophers of the linguistic school once fastened, mincing larger concepts into small digestible bites. And so it must be here. In acquiring this thing, collectors should be aware that while excellent, it may not provide so strong a satisfaction as might a less technically alert performance by, say, Elman. Nevertheless, maybe nowadays, this may be as good as things will likely get. Strongly recommended, then, although with reservations that may or not prove to be serious ones for listeners with diverse predispositions. Nobody can go wrong, but maybe not absolutely right either.


FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Read less

Works on This Recording

1. Valse-Scherzo for Violin and Orchestra in C major, Op. 34 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  James Ehnes (Violin)
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sydney Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877; Russia 
2. Souvenir d'un lieu cher, Op. 42 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  James Ehnes (Violin)
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sydney Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Russia 
3. Sérénade mélancolique for Violin and Orchestra in B minor, Op. 26 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  James Ehnes (Violin)
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sydney Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875; Russia 
4. Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 35 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  James Ehnes (Violin)
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sydney Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Russia 

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title
Review This Title Share on Facebook