James Ehnes plays Bruch with Marek Janowski & the San Francisco Symphony

Violinist James Ehnes

Violinist James Ehnes is the guest artist in this week’s San Francisco Symphony performances, led by Marek Janowski, the first of three guest conductors appearing at Davis Symphony Hall this month. He’ll be followed later in May by Krzysztof Urbanski and Juraj Valcuha. Ehnes will play the Violin Concerto No 1 by Max Bruch in a program which also features works by Mendelssohn and Wagner.

James Ehnes – described by The Times as “A violinist in a class of his own” – is the recent winner of a 2019 GRAMMY Award in the Best Classical Instrumental Solo category, for his recording of Aaron-Jay Kernis’ Violin Concerto. Mr Ehnes premiered this work with the Toronto, Seattle and Dallas symphony orchestras, and has since performed it with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

Currently Artistic Director of the Seattle Chamber Music Society, and Artist in Residence of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, James Ehnes is a favorite guest artist with some of the world’s most respected conductors, and has appeared with some of the world’s finest orchestras. The Telegraph has written of him as “The wondrous James Ehnes, a thinker of the violin as well as a supreme virtuoso of the instrument … an artist of the first order”. He is also the recipient of the 2017 Royal Philharmonic Society Award in the Instrumentalist category.

In this week’s performances, James Ehnes plays the work described by violinist Joseph Joachim as “the richest, the most seductive” of the four major German violin concertos.

Conductor Marek Janowski © Felix Broede

Polish by birth, and raised in Germany, Marek Janowski is considered to be one of the great masters of music in the German tradition, recognized throughout the world for his interpretation of the music of Wagner, Strauss, Bruckner, Brahms, Hindemith and the Second Viennese School.

Currently Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Dresdner Philharmonie, Marek Janowski has also held the positions of Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Musical Director of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Chief Conductor of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo, Chief Conductor of the Dresdner Philharmonie, and Musical Director of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France.

Following a number of years appearing in the world’s major opera houses, he stepped back from opera in 1990 to focus on the German and French symphonic repertoire.

In 2014 Maestro Janowski was awarded  the “Ehrenpreis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik” (honorary prize of the German Critics’ Award) in recognition of his life’s work.

The program opens with Mendelssohn’s Overture to Victor Hugo’s dark and convoluted play, Ruy Blas, an overture which the composer revised and reintroduced some days after the opening of the play, when he led the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.

The last two works in the program are both by Richard Wagner – the Overture and Venusberg Music from his opera Tannhäuser, and the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde, an opera based largely on the 12th-century romance Tristan by Gottfried von Strassburg.

Read more about the featured works in the San Francisco Symphony program notes below.

Marek Janowski leads the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and guest artist James Ehnes in works by Bruch, Mendelssohn and Wagner at Davies Symphony Hall from May 2nd to 4th. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Symphony program notes:

Bruch Violin Concerto
Ruy Blas Overture
Overture and Venusberg Music from Tannhäuser
Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde
and artists’ websites:
Marek Janowski – Intermusica
Marek Janowski – Pentatone Music
James Ehnes
James Ehnes – Intermusica

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