Notes and Editorial Reviews
Who knew violin virtuoso James Ehnes was a pianist! He demonstrates his facility for the keyboard on this disc's final track, a decently played, heartfelt (if a bit square) rendition of the last of Dvorák's Humoresques Op. 101. Listeners who didn't carefully check the track listings beforehand will be waiting for the violin to enter (as I was), then be pleasantly surprised to find that no, this isn't a violin/piano arrangement of the famous piano piece--it
is the piano piece! It's a charming and ingratiating encore for a program that's filled with some of the more overtly romantic and, in the case of the Janácek, craggy-edged works in the solo-violin repertoire. And it's really Ehnes' superb violin playing that we came
for--and we're not disappointed.
Of course, there's no shortage of fine performances of Dvorák's Romantic Pieces and Sonatina (see Perlman, Zhou, or Stern, to name a few), and Isabelle Faust gives a rousing account of the Janácek sonata (type Q7078 in Search Reviews), but Ehnes is a world-class violinist and he proves it once again with intense, characterful, and technically flawless renditions of these Czech gems. Ehnes also provides a bonus with his own version of Smetana's From the Homeland, comprised from a 1917 "critical edition" by Karel Barvitius that the violinist discovered on a visit to Prague several years ago.
In the four Romantic Pieces he shows impressive range of tone and expression (and no fear whatsoever!), while his Janácek captures every abrupt angle and sharp edge with ardent, easy flair. The whole recital passes by with such smoothness and confident air that it's over before we know it--and pianist Eduard Laurel, who also shone brightly in Ehnes' excellent Kreisler recording, gives his all here, meriting near-equal billing for his outstanding playing and sympathetic partnership. The sound is just a bit hard and bright, giving both the violin and piano an unnatural edginess that's adequately softened by a minor adjustment of treble and bass controls on your amplifier. This is another solid effort by a violinist about whom years from now listeners will be saying, "Oh yes, I remember when he was just starting out, and I knew he'd be one of the greats. . ." [2/28/2004]
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Sonata for Violin and Piano by Leos Janácek
Eduard Laurel (Piano),
James Ehnes (Violin)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1914-1921; Brno, Czech Republic
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