Fanfare - May/June 2010
Artistic Quality 10 Sound Quality 10
"...Ehnes’ performances are solid enough and authoritative enought that you can confidently choose this recording as your reference - and as a guaranteed, bedazzling journey through some of the violin repertoire’s most awesome terrain. Highly recommended!"
ClassicsToday.com - 21 April 2010
- Disc of the Month -
"James Ehenes delivers a revelatory recording of Paganini’s devilish 24 Caprices
Ehnes has recorded the Caprices before, inn 1995 at the age of 19. Since then his view of the music hasn’t changed a great deal - the smoother, more subtly phrased chordal passages in No.5 is a typical example of refinement of interpretation rather than a radical rethink. There’s the same daring, bold approach, relying on exceptional technique to deliver an inner vision of each piece - no pauses or stretching of the rhythm to make awkward corners more manageable. What has changed is that Ehnes’s technique has got even better, the intonation more precise, the bow control more sensitive. And the new recording adds an extra degree of clarity so that the playing makes a more vivid impact. Even a solitary listener will feel the desire to applaud the presto section of No.11, with its jaunty rhythms and extraordinary leaps, or the quick staccato scales at the end of No.21.
The past year has been a bumper one for Paganini’s Op.1. Tanja Becker-Bender, also very well recorded, tends to downplay virtuosity, concentrating rather on making the music sound beautiful. It’s a successful approach but lacks something of the excitement Ehnes is able to generate. Thomas Zehetmair, with sharp contrast of dynamic and tome colour, puts beauty of sound second to expressive intensity. His interpretations are highly imaginative, even extending to improvised variations of repeated passages. But of the three, Ehnes is my clear recommendation. he really is a top - class violinist, and it’s a joy to hear such difficult pieces sounding so completely comfortable and unfettered."
Gramophone - January 2010
"No collection of virtuoso showpieces demands greater technical prowess than Paganini’s 24 Caprices. Yet James Ehnes whose artistry suggests that in Paganini’s age he would have enjoyed similar stature to the great man, succeeds impressively in being more than merely thrilling. He realises that, extravagant though some of the music’s gestures are, this is not simply a high-wire act. Listen to his control of colour, dynamic and articulation in the Sixth caprice, where Paganini achieves the illusion of a cantabile line accompanied by tremolando chords. It’s playing of phenomenal control, allied to musicianship of the highest order." ****
The Sunday Times - 25 October 2009
- Recording of the Month -
"A marvellous, amazing, stunning, spectacular, fabulous, awe-inspiring, fabulous - only half-way through the Microsoft office thesaurus but I’ll leave out cool and groovy - piece of music-making."
MusicWebInternational - November 2009
- Classical CD of the week -
"It is one of the imponderables and seeming inevitabilities of the record industry that a corpus of music which not have had much of an airing for some while suddenly appears on two different releases within weeks of one another. Only last month, Thomas Zehetmair’s disc of Paganini’s 24 Caprices was reviewed on these pages, and now Canadian violinist James Ehnes has produced a superb version that nudges all others out of the limelight. The reservation that Zehetmair’s disc provoked was that it was not particularly rewarding to listen to all 24 Caprices in a single stretch, but Ehnes comprehensively disproves that assertion. These studies in virtuosity might harbour every technical trick known to man - and maybe some known only to the Devil - but Ehnes has a rare sensibility to make music music out of them.
An added complication here is that Ehnes recorded Paganini’s 24 Caprices for Telarc back in 1996, but here he revisits them with the experience of more than a decade, with new subtleties, fire, honed energy and a mature insight into the way Paganini could captivate his audiences not merely with acrobatic feats but also with a liquid lyricism and a spectrum of dynamic shadings t6hat gave you his playing heart-stopping eloquence. You only have to listen to Ehnes in the slow sixth caprice in G minor, with its melodic line carried on a bed of shimmering trills, to appreciate, far from being a mere finger-testing study, the music has palpable shape and encapsulates poetic feeling. Elshewhere, as in the ninth caprice, Ehnes’s full, rounded tone and emphasis in the ’hunting call’ figuration are beautifully contrasted with ideas of delicate shading."
This is a wonderful set that shows Paganini and Ehnes as masters or both technique and expression." ****
The Daily Telegraph - 24 October 2009
"One of the recordings that launched Canadian James Ehnes’s international career was his dazzling account of the 24 Paganini Caprices, released by Telarc in 1995. These pinnacles of violinistic virtuosity are obviously important to him, for now he has recorded them again for Onyx, with equal brilliance but more thoughtfulness."
The Guardian - 23 October 2009
"There must be something in the air. Just as Thomas Zehetmair releases his second disc of Paganini’s 24 Caprices, James Ehnes returns to the works that launched his recording career in 1995.
Where Zehetmair emphasises Paganini’s boldness, with often jarring results, Ehnes gives a performance that balances bel canto refinement with an almost Beethovenian heroism. Technically, this is faultless. The spiccato is crisp, the octaves dazzling. Even more impressive is the melodic sweetness."
The Independent On Sunday - 11 November 2009
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