James Ehnes, classical review: 'A rich, bright and muscular sound'

Wigmore Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

The young Canadian fiddler James Ehnes is not so much in love with the violin as with specific instruments, of which he is a connoisseur, and in pursuit of which - most notably a 1715 Strad - he has spent much of his energy.

After falling in love with that Strad’s sound, he was led a dance lasting years: he had it as a loan, had to yield it up to a buyer, then it came back on the market, and was finally bought by a rich friend who gave it him on permanent loan ‘to stop me whining about it’.

With Ehnes’s duo partner suddenly taken ill, that Strad came centre-stage for Ehnes’s substitute solo programme: two of Bach’s greatest violin works, Partitas 2 and 3. And one saw immediately what he was talking about: the sound was rich, bright, and muscular as he launched into the tumbling figurations of the opening Prelude.

His playing was exemplarily clean, with beautifully-handled echo effects, but there wasn’t much poetry. Only in the final Chaconne did he reveal the full extent of his artistry, letting its architecture grow until it climaxed in a blaze of glory, before dying back down to a confiding intimacy