Tchaikovsky Concerto for Violin; Sérénade mélancolique
James Ehnes’s programme, complementing the Concerto with the rest of Tchaikovsky’s solo violin music, follows Julia Fischer, who issued exactly the same sequence in 2006 even to the extent of having her conductor (Yakov Kreizberg) doubling as pianist in Souvenir d’un lieu cher.
Both Fischer and Ehnes are very fine violinists with a strong feeling for Tchaikovsky’s music, and both possess the refined musicianship to be able to present the Concerto’s transitions and cadenza-like passages in the most convincing, compelling way. The sound of Ehnes’s violin is especially full and expressive; it’s not the kind of tone that Tchaikovsky would have recognised but it sounds gorgeous and allows him to rise to the concerto’s lyrical high spots with considerable intensity. Even his muted tone in the Canzonetta is exceptionally warm and resonant. He clearly enjoys demonstrating his ability as a virtuoso, making this one of the most exciting accounts of the finale I can remember, with the Sydney Symphony responding to the verve of the solo playing with exhilarating vigour and deftness.
Of the shorter pieces, the Sérénade mélancolique is wonderfully dark and atmospheric but I found the Valse-scherzo just slightly heavy-handed, especially when heard alongside Fischer’s playful, witty performance. A lighter tone and style would also have benefited the Mélodie from Souvenir d’un lieu cher but the preceding Scherzo is splendidly done, with Ashkenazy’s part, in his hands much more than an accompaniment, contributing largely to the overall effect.