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Marin Alsop on James Ehnes Twenty Top Talents
I am very excited about the Canadian violinist James Ehnes. He has been around for a little while, but over the past couple of years he has quietly matured into a consummate artist, able to perform almost anything in the repertory, from Shostakovich to Mendelssohn.
I first heard him play when he was 14 years old: his teacher brought him to play for me when I was music director of the Long Island Philharmonic. I could tell he was extremely talented, and he showed great promise, like a diamond in the rough. About eight years later, I performed with him in Los Angeles, and again I noted how talented he was. But now, he is not only gifted - he's an artist, the real thing.
As he has grown up, his playing has become so refined, so honest and pure. We all have ego, but ego never seems to drive him: he plays without pretence, focusing entirely on the piece of music and the composer. For me, that's what makes a consummate artist.
He's still young - he was born in 1976 - but he's getting the engagements and exposure, and it's all coming together for him. I recently heard his new recording of Elgar's Violin Concerto with the Philharmonia Orchestra.
It's fantastic. I didn't think about the quality of his violin-playing, about how he tackled particular passages, or about intonation. I just sat there thinking, "This is a great piece of music." These days I ask to work with James all the time because he can play anything with that same genuineness.