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ON 4060
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ON 4060

Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto/Octet

The Classical Shop
release date: January 2012

Originally recorded in 2010


Philharmonia Orchestra

Vladimir Ashkenazy

James Ehnes


Musicians of the Seattle Chamber Music Society


Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya Hall, Seattle, Washington, USA

Warwick Arts Centre, UK


Simon Kiln

Matthew Cosgrove



Mike Clements


Brian Valentino


Record Label


Orchestral & Concertos


Total Time - 57:18
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Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64

1 I Allegro molto appassionato 12:45
2 II Andante 8:16
3 III Allegretto non troppo - Allegro molto vivace 5:35
 James Ehnes violin
 Vladimir Ashkenazy

Octet in E flat, Op. 20

4 I Allegro moderato ma con fuoco 13:49
5 II Andante 6:31
6 III Scherzo 4:29
7 IV Presto 5:53
  James Ehnes · Erin Keefe · Andrew Wan · Augustin Hadelich violins  
  Cynthia Phelps · Richard O'Neill violas  
  Robert deMaine · Edward Arron cellos  

James Ehnes and the Philharmonia join forces again after the Gramophone Award-winning Elgar concerto recording (ONYX 4025), this time with Vladimir Ashkenazy conducting in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. The sparkling and precocious Octet, written when the composer was just 16 years old, is another of Mendelssohn’s best known works. 

               Recording of the Month

"...It just doesn’t get any better than this."

Kevin Sutton - MusicWeb - February 2011

"Recommended most strongly for Ehnes’s crackling account of the violin concerto and for Onyx’s clear recorded sound"

Robert Maxham - Fanfare

"Ehnes played the Mendelssohn to packed houses last season and this recording from the Warwick Arts Centre captures his technically immaculate, precise style, matched by the orchestra’s delicate restraint. The brisk immediacy of the opening Allegro gives Ehnes a chance to show off his brilliant passage work from the start. He is utterly in charge yet never sacrifices expressiveness for precision and technical excellence. The orchestra is on impeccable form under Ashkenazy, playing with a lyrical lightness and unfettered transparency which is captured in a well-balanced and finely detailed live recording that brings an added sense of spontaneity.The Octet has rarely sounded more symphonic as Ehnes and his Seattle friends demonstrate all the energy and wit of chamber playing at its most dazzling." 

Classic FM Magazine - March 2011

Performance *****  Recording ****

"From his very first entry in the Concerto, James Ehnes draws us into Mendelssohn’s magic world of simplicity, melancholy and elegance. From here the virtuoso passages spring like some natural, organic growth, in no way underplayed , but with a sense of rightness, that they could not conceivably be other than they are. Of course Mendelssohn must take credit for some of this. But Ehnes, eschewing flashiness or vulgarity and never, for instance, indulging in changes of bowing just to show what he can do, shows us the ’restrained Romanticism’ which according to Andre Gide lies at the heart of Classicism. Vladimir Ashkenazy allows him some liberty over tempo in the first movement, but nothing that obstructs the flow of ideas. The Andante is not taken as an adagio, and there is sparkle aplenty in the finale. Throughout, Ehne’s sweet, unforced tone is a pure delight.

In the Octet he leads a fine ensemble, fully alive to the mercurial wit of the Scherzo and, at the other extreme, to the emotional depth of the Andante. As so often, the final Presto poses a problem: so you play safe over speed and guarantee an audible pitch for the opening low cello motif, or do you just go for broke and let E flat major establish itself as and when it can? The Seattle players take the second option, and the close recording does contribute to delaying the E flat a bit longer than one might like. but this is the only caveat over a spirited and stylish performance."

Roger Nichols - BBC Music Magazine - January 2011

    Editors Choice
"Imagination and thrilling technique combine in a winning coupling"

Harriet Smith - Gramophone magazine - February 2011

          Classical CD of the Week

"James Ehnes consolidates his position as one of the most sublime and stylish of musicians on this new recording of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, coupled with a performance of the Octet, in which Ehnes is joined by members of the Seattle Chamber Music Society. Ehnes’s gorgeous, supple tone is combined with that instinct for a composer’s distinctive character that makes his interpretations  so compelling. The finely spun lyrical lines of the central slow movement are played with unaffected but subtle beauty, complemented by the eloquence of phrasing in the Philharmonia Orchestra. Ashkenazy conducts with delicacy and strength, the translucence of the orchestral sonority proving the ideal foil for Ehnes’s refined conception of the piece. His deft finger-work in the outer movements is spot on, but as always, the technical aspects of articulating the concerto are put at the service of expressive feeling. Nothing is overdone: nor are the charm and spirit of the concerto understated. Ehnes’s innate sensibility draws him into the music’s milieu for a performance that is outstanding and unreservedly recommended. To have Mendelssohn’s precociously gifted Octet of 1825 as a companion piece makes it even more attractive, especially when it is played with such taste and zest." *****

Geoffrey Norris - The Daily Telegraph - 20 November 2011

"Brisk tempi mark out James Ehnes’s reading of Mendelssohn’s perennial concerto; there is nothing cloying or sentimental, even in the luscious slow movement where lesser violinists are tempted to wallow. Instead, he gives a beautifully sincere, unaffected performance, with Ashkenazy restricting the Philharmonia to the lightest of accompaniment. And Ehnes joins other north American string players in a fizzing account of the glorious Octet, written by the wildly precocious Mendelssohn at the age of 16  - without a trace of teenage angst."

Stephen Pritchard  -  The Observer - 21 November 2010

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