A Quick Q&A with James Ehnes

A Quick Q&A with Canadian violinist James Ehnes ahead of his performances of Beethoven's Violin Concert with the RSNO this week.

What's your own history with the Beethoven Violin Concerto? How long have you been playing it?
I was lucky to have the opportunity to first perform the Beethoven when I was quite young, 16 I think. I think I've probably played it more than any other piece in my repertoire! I've had a lot of special experiences with the piece, and one of the great joys of playing it is that it's always a slightly different creature depending on the conductor, orchestra, hall, etc. I played it with Ed Gardner in Birmingham last season, and am greatly looking forward to revisiting it with him this week.
Your recording of the Concerto is released this autumn - is there a reason that you've waited until now to record the piece?
Not really; it was just a case of the circumstances being perfect. It's been my philosophy with recordings to pursue the projects that "work" - the right combination of collaborators, the right producer/engineer, the right repertoire of course - rather than trying to force projects based on abstract idea of what one "should" be releasing at a particular time in one's career. With last year's recording, all sorts of things fell into place that made it seem like the perfect thing at the perfect time. I'm very proud of the way it turned out.
What do you particularly enjoy about the piece? And how would you describe it challenges - both technical and musical/emotional?
I find it to be a very uplifting and energizing experience. It is supremely beautiful and lyrical, but also tremendously exciting and triumphant. It is certainly a difficult and intricate piece violinistically, but I think the greatest challenge lies in the pacing; it is important (in my opinion) to find the right balance between enjoying all its moments of extreme beauty and keeping the momentum and not losing the architecture of the piece as a whole.
You won the Instrumentalist of the Year award at the 2017 RPS awards - what does the award mean to you?
It is a great honour! I have had the very great fortune of performing a great deal over the years all over the United Kingdom, from Orkney to Brighton; the UK and its music lovers have meant a lot to me, so it was very special to be recognised for the wonderful experiences I have had sharing music in this country.

James Ehnes performs Beethoven's Violin Concerto in Perth Concert Hall on Thursday 12 October, the Usher Hall, Edinburgh on Friday 13 October and the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday 14 October.

The Story of Vadim's Violin

Picture the scene... It's 1878 and the 38-year old Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is taking a break in Clarens, Switzerland. He is working on a Violin Concerto with his composition pupil Iosif Kotek. Four years previously in 1874, Tchaikovsky had witnessed a performance in Moscow by violinist Leopold Auer (who had championed Tchaikovsky's symphonic works when he was still a little-known composer) and went on to praise Leopold Auer's "great expressivity, the thoughtful finesse and poetry of the interpretation."
Leopold Auer played a 1689 Stradivarius violin; one of the best violins in the world. The sound created by this violin and this violinist must have stuck in Tchaikovsky's mind as he went on to dedicate his Sérénade mélancolique to him a year later.
It is perhaps then little surprise that when it came to dedicating his first (and only) violin concerto that Leopold Auer and his Stradivarius would again spring to Tchaikovsky's mind as his preferred soloist for its premiere, and also its dedication.
The date for the premiere was set for March 1879. However Auer refused and the concert had to be cancelled and a new soloist found.
Initially it was reported that Auer thought the work was "unplayable", but sources now suggest Auer thought that "some of the passages were suited to the character of the instrument, and that, however perfectly rendered, they would not sound as well as the composer had imagined."
Over two and a half years passed and the premiere of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto was eventually given by Adolf Brodsky in Vienna on 4 December 1881. A second edition was published and Tchaikovsky changed the dedication to Adolf Brodsky.
Fast forward 131 years, Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto is widely acknowledged to be among the most technically difficult works for violin. It has also become one of the best known and best loved of all violin concertos. And the "ex-Leopold Auer" Stradivarius has a new owner in Vadim Gluzman.
Over the next three nights Vadim Gluzman will join Music Director Peter Oundjian and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra on stage to perform Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto on the instrument that was intended to give its premiere. So when you come along to our concerts in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow this weekend and marvel at the music you're hearing Vadim Gluzman play, just think: you're listening to the very same instrument that Tchaikovsky wrote it for!

Nicola Benedetti & Miloš Karadaglić winners at Classic Brit Awards 2012

The Classic Brit Awards 2012 took place on Tuesday night and we are delighted to tell you that Nicola Benedetti and Miloš Karadaglić, who both feature as soloists in the RSNO's 2012:13 Season, won awards.
All of us at the RSNO would like to offer both Nicola and Miloš our congratulations.Nicola Benedetti picked up Female Artist of the Year, whilst Miloš Karadaglić was named as MasterCard’s Breakthrough Artist Of The Year.Miloš Karadaglić will join conductor Gilbert Varga and the RSNO for a performance of Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez atAberdeen's Music Hall on Thursday 11 April 2012, Edinburgh's Usher Hall on Friday 12 April 2013, and the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday 13 April 2013.Nicola Benedetti will join Music Director Peter Oundjian and the RSNO for a performance of Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending and Saint-Saëns' Introduction and Rondo capriccioso for our Season Finale in Edinburgh's Usher Hall on Friday 31 May 2013 and the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday 1 June 2013.Don't miss your chance to catch these award-winning soloists in concert!