BRITTEN / SHOSTAKOVICH Violin Concertos. James Ehnes, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra / Kirill Karabits. Onyx

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Britten Shostakovich Violin Concertos James Ehnes Onyx

  • BRITTEN Violin concerto Op. 15
  • SHOSTAKOVICH Violin Concerto No. 1 Op. 99

James Ehnes, violin
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra / Kirill Karabits

After a series of critically acclaimed recordings on ONYX, most recently of the Mendelssohn (ONYX4060) and the Tchaikovsky concertos (ONYX4076), James Ehnes teams up with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and its charismatic music director, Kirill Karabits, in Violin Concertos by Benjamin Britten and Dmitri Shostakovich.

The Britten an early work, was completed in the September of 1939, just as World War II broke out. Britten had already composed 'Our Hunting Fathers' in 1935 (words by W.H Auden), and this work's ferocious condemnation of political extremism and man's inhumanity can to some extent be detected in the concerto. The barbarity of the Spanish Civil War (the concerto was written for the young Spanish violinist Antonio Brosa), the rise of Hitler's Nazis and the persecution of the Jews appalled Britten. Peace and reconciliation was his credo, as exemplified in the later 'War Requiem'. In the scherzo tuba and piccolos present the listener with an image of the horrifying abyss mankind was lurching towards. The first of Shostakovich's two violin concertos was composed in 1948 for David Oistrakh. It had to wait until 1955 for its premiere due to the ban on 'serious' music by the notorious Zhdanov Conference and Party Decree of 1948. Only 'patriotic' music was allowed. With Stalin's death in 1953 Shostakovich was finally able to exert his artistic freedom. It is a truly symphonic work in scale, grand, dramatic and cast in four movements with a huge cadenza placed before the finale. Only in the finale does the sun burst out in a brilliant helter-skelter coda.

"Ehnes's sound had the beauty of burnished steel as he roamed the stratosphere, the poise of his playing complementing the poise of this music which might have been written to show off his talents, for his sound is absolutely Protean... Required in the Scherzo to swoop and slide like a Transylvanian village fiddler, he went on to deliver a brilliant cadenza, musingly at first and then catching fire, before ushering in the majestically sweeping threnody of the Passacaglia. Here he dazzled, going through a series of duets with different instruments using a different timbre each time, making quick-fire contrasts between legato and pizzicato, at one point effortlessly bowing a leaping melody on one string while plucking another, and finally making his instrument speak with two voices, one low and richly sonorous and the other high and pure, and in the latter mode drifting off into space. This reflected a rare rapport between conductor and soloist, but the other works in the programme revealed an orchestra in top form with Karabits gaily revisiting his Soviet origins " Michael Church, The Independent, concert review [Britten]

Onyx ONYX4113

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