James Ehnes | The Canadian Encyclopedia


James Ehnes

James Ehnes. Violinist, b Brandon, Man 27 Jan 1976; B MUS (Juilliard) 1997, hon D MUS (Brandon) 2005.

James Ehnes

James Ehnes. Violinist, b Brandon, Man 27 Jan 1976; B MUS (Juilliard) 1997, hon D MUS (Brandon) 2005. The son of trumpeter and teacher Alan Ehnes, James Ehnes began playing the violin at age four, studying with Francis Chaplin from age nine, and with Sally Thomas at the Meadowmount School of Music, NY, and at The Juilliard School, where he graduated in 1997 and was awarded the Peter Mennin Prize.

The winner of the grand prize in strings at the Canadian Music Competition in 1987, Ehnes began to establish himself nationally. In 1988 he became the youngest musician to win first prize in strings at the Canadian Music Festival. He was also awarded first prizes in the Montreal Symphony Orchestra Concours (1988 and 1992), the Quebec Symphony Orchestra Competition (1989), the Women's Musical Club of Toronto competition (1992), the National Concerto Competition in Michigan (1993), the WAMSO competition (1993), and the CBC Radio Competition (1993). He won the Canada Council's Virginia Parker Prize in 1997, the first Ivan Galamian Memorial Award in 1994, and an Avery Fisher career grant in 2005. In 2007 Ehnes became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 2010 he was named a Member of the Order of Canada.

Since his orchestral debut at 13 with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Ehnes has appeared under the direction of conductors such as Ashkenazy, Andrew Davis, Charles Dutoit, Iván Fischer, Gielen, Graf, Hickox, Järvi, Litton, Zdenĕk Mácal, Mackerras, Noseda, Ozawa, Skrowaczewski, Thielemann, and Bramwell Tovey. He has performed in the UK with the London Symphony, the Philharmonia, the BBC Philharmonic, the National Orchestra of Wales, and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra; in Europe with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin, Orchestre de Lyon, Orchestre de Liege, the Gulbenkian Orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic, Residentie Orkest of The Hague, the Budapest Festival Orchestra, and the Finnish Radio Orchestra.

In Asia James Ehnes has also appeared with the NHK Symphony Orchestra, the Malaysian Philharmonic, and the Hong Kong Philharmonic; in the US he has performed with the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, and in most major cities; and in Canada with the Montreal Symphony, the Toronto Symphony, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Symphony Nova Scotia, and the Edmonton, Quebec, Vancouver, Victoria, Winnipeg, Calgary, Ottawa, Saskatoon, Kitchener-Waterloo, Thunder Bay, Newfoundland, and other symphonies as well as with the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. He has collaborated with artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, as well as in chamber music trios with pianist Louis Lortie and cellist Jan Vogler.

Ehnes has appeared in recital around the world in cities such as Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, and Vancouver; London, Paris, Lisbon, Prague, Tokyo, Osaka, and Washington, DC. He has also performed at major international festivals such as the Ravinia, Marlboro, Seattle Chamber Music, Bravo! Vail Valley Music, Tokyo Summer Music, Bermuda, Montreux, Chaise-Dieu, Côte Saint-André, Moritzburg, and White Nights festivals.

His instrument is the "Ex-Marsick" Stradivarius of 1715.

Premieres and Canadian Works

In 2005 Ehnes played the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major in the National Ballet's Canadian premiere in Toronto of the ballet Opus 19/The Dreamer, based on the concerto. He has performed the premieres of several works by Canadians, such as Omar Daniel's Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra (with Denis Brott) and Murray Adaskin's Sonata for solo violin (dedicated to Ehnes), as well as playing works by T. Patrick Carrabré, Alfred Fisher, Derek Healey, Elizabeth Raum, Jean Papineau-Couture and S.C. Eckhardt-Gramatté.


Ehnes's double recording of Bach's Six Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin won a Juno award in 2001 for best classical album and a five-star rating from the BBC. The following year, that recording secured for Ehnes the title Young Artist of the Year at the Cannes Classical Awards. His CD of Bruch's Concertos Nos. 1 and 3 with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra won both Juno and Canadian Independent Music Awards in 2002, and Ehnes won the 2003 Juno and ADISQ awards for his recording of the Bruch Second Concerto for Violin and Scottish Fantasy, also with the Montreal Symphony. He won additional Junos in 2007 and 2008, and Grammy and Gramophone awards in 2008. In 2008 Ehnes released Homage (Onyx 4038), a CD/DVD compilation showcasing rare violins from the Fulton Collection. The album was awarded a Juno in 2009.

Ehnes garnered his first Juno nomination for the Paganini Caprices (1995, Telarc CD 80398), becoming the youngest classical musician so honoured. Ehnes revisited the Caprices (2009, Onyx 4044), earning another Juno nomination for classical album of the year (solo or chamber ensemble) in 2010. Later that year, Ehnes released a recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto and Octet, which was nominated for a Juno in 2011. His recording of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, released in 2012, was awarded Best Large-ensemble Classical Album at the 2013 Juno Awards in Regina. He has made more than 20 recordings on CBC Records, Analekta, Chandos, Telarc, Sony Classical, and Black Box.

Selected Discography

Bach. The Six Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin. 2000. Analekta FL 2 3147 -8

Prokofiev. The Two Violin Sonatas and Five Melodies. Wendy Chen piano. 2000. Analekta FL 2 3145

Ravel - Debussy - Saint-Saëns. Wendy Chen piano. 2000. CBC Records MVCD 1138

Bruch. Concerto No. 2 and Scottish Fantasy. Montreal Symphony, Bernardi conductor. 2001. CBC Records SMCD 5222

_____. Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 3. Montreal Symphony, Dutoit conductor. 2001. CBC Records SMCD 5207

French Showpieces. Saint-Saëns - Berlioz et al. Orchestre Symphonique de Québec, Yoav Talmi conductor. 2001. Analekta FL 2 3151

Kreisler. Variations on a Theme by Corelli. Eduard Laurel piano. 2002. Analekta FL 2 3159

Piano Quintets. Schumann in E flat major; Fauré No. 2 in C minor. Mira Wang violin; Naoko Shimizu viola; Jan Vogler cello; Louis Lortie piano. 2003. Sony Classics SMK 93038

Dallapiccola. Tartiniana. BBC Philharmonic, Gianandrea Noseda conductor. 2004. Chandos CHAN 10258

Dohnányi. Violin Concerto No 2. BBC Philharmonic, Matthias Bamert conductor. 2004. Chandos CHAN 10245

Romantic Pieces. Smetana - Dvořák - Janacek. Eduard Laurel piano. 2004. Analekta FL 2 3191

Wieniawski - Sarasate. Wieniawski Polonaise, Scherzo - Sarasate Spanish Dances. Eduard Laurel piano. 2004. CBC Records MVCD 1168

Adams. Road Movies. Andrew Russo, piano. 2005. Black Box BBM 1098

Bach. Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord, Vol 1. Luc Beauséjour, harpsichord. 2005. Analekta AN 2 9829

Dvořák. Violin Concerto. BBC Philharmonic, Gianandrea Noseda conductor. 2005. Chandos CHAN 10309

Hummel. London Mozart Players, Howard Shelley conductor/piano. 2005. Chandos CHAN 10255

Barber, Korngold & Walton: Violin Concertos. Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Bramwell Tovey conductor. 2006. CBC Records SMCD 5241

Elgar: Violin Concerto. Philharmonia Orchestra, Andrew Davis conductor. 2007. Onyx ONYX 4025

Further Reading

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