Young Mendelssohn!

The Mendelssohn concerto in E-Minor for violin and orchestra is known as a “Warhorse”, because even young violin students ultimately struggle to capture its beauty and its technical challenges. While these challenges do not equal those in, say, the Brahms or Tchaikovsky concerti, there are still plenty of hurdles to overcome.

Many musicians have taken to add to this music a level of drama and sentimentality that – in my view – the composer did not intend, or he would have instructed the performer accordingly. For me, interesting performances of this work preserve a freshness and directness that this music deserves, as it was written by such a young composer.

Relatively quick tempi mark James Ehnes’s reading of Mendelssohn’s concerto; there is nothing unauthentic or sentimental, even in the luscious slow movement where lesser violinists are tempted to add something that is not there. Instead, he gives a beautifully sincere, unaffected performance, with Ashkenazy restricting the Philharmonia Orchestra to the lightest of accompaniment.

In addition, also on this CD, James Ehnes joins other American string players in an amazing account of the glorious Mendelssohn Octet, written by the precocious Mendelssohn at the age of 16 – without a trace of any teenager’s angst. After all, the Midsummer night’s dream was written by the composer at age 17!

The Sunday Times wrote:

“It’s playing of phenomenal control, allied to musicianship of the highest order.”

Now… here is James Ehnes playing the Bach A – minor Fugue. You are in for a treat!

Tags: James Ehnes, Mendelssohn, Concerto, Octet

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