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Q+A with James Ehnes

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We are so heartbroken by the loss of former WSO music director Bramwell Tovey. Can you share some of your experiences with the maestro?

I first met Bramwell when I had the chance to play for him in the fall of 1989, his first season in Winnipeg. He engaged me for performances with the WSO the following season, and from that point onwards was one of the great musical influences in my life. We had so many wonderful experiences working together over the ensuing 30 years, all over the world. He became a very close friend, in addition to one of my most regular collaborators. I will miss him dearly.

Is life back to normal for you? How have you transitioned from pandemic mode to ‘normal’ mode. Has anything fundamentally changed in the way you do things?

I don’t know that I could say it’s “normal”, as there is always the spectre of Covid cancelations and travel has become significantly more complicated, but my schedule has rebounded to where it used to be, which makes me very happy! It is wonderful to be back playing for live audiences; that interaction was what I missed the most during the years of reduced audiences and video streaming.

How nice is it to be coming back to your home province? Is there a place you head to first whenever you’re in town?

I have missed Manitoba so much! This will be my first time back since July, 2019. There are a lot of places in Winnipeg that hold a lot of memories; the concert hall is probably at the top of that list. I’m expecting it to be quite an emotional trip for me!

Tell us about the first time you heard Beethoven’s Violin concerto. What resonated with you?

I received an LP of Yehudi Menuhin playing the Beethoven Concerto for Christmas when I was probably about 8 or 9. I was immediately struck not just by the beauty of the music, but also the way the piece captures the listener’s imagination immediately and time seems to be suspended.

You recorded this work with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Has the way you play this concerto changed in any way since the recording?

I don’t know that my interpretation has changed in any significant way, but every performance is different, and every collaboration brings new features of a piece to light. Our performance in Winnipeg will be unique, and I’m greatly looking forward to it!

Watch James Ehnes LIVE in September