Tuesday, 14 January 2003

Listened to the two new James Ehnes CDs I brought back from Paris. Why did I buy them? I don't usually enjoy Ehnes, who is a very fine violinist indeed, but can be a little unimaginative.
Well, the CD of James Ehnes playing Kreisler was thoroughly enjoyable. Somehow, faced with just playing the fiddle superbly in lighter music, Ehnes takes wing. A super performance of the Tartini-Kreisler Devil's Trill. Ehnes sounds as if he is enjoying himself.
The CD of Bruch (second violin concerto, and Scottish Fantasy) introduces a conundrum. The second violin concerto is really rather a dull work. Ehnes plays the Scottish Fantasy beautifully. But anyone who remembers Heifetz in this piece will realise that Ehnes is heavily influenced by Heifetz. Phrasing, bowing, fingering, expressive gestures and tempi all sound so similar as to be downright imitation rather than "influenced by". Only in the finale does Ehnes depart from His Master's Voice, with a slower tempo. A bit puzzling. I enjoyed the performance greatly; but it really was Heifetz in good modern sound!

Sunday, 5 January 2003

Evening of duo sonatas. Hanna Kotkova in the Janacek sonata didn’t please me too much. A bit limp, and the balance favours the piano, with her playing away in the background. Turned to Akiko Suwanai and Boris Berezovsky in the Janacek (and in the Dvorak Four Pieces); and what a difference! Ended up with Vadim Repin and the omnipresent Boris Berezovsky in the Strauss sonata. A magnificent performance; quite as good as the classic Heifetz performance (and that is saying a lot). It has to be said that Berezovsky contributes as much to the Suwanai and Repin discs as do the violinists themselves.