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.