James Ehnes Tackles 10 Questions

AntheilThe classical beaver is extremely proud to present its latest interview with *James Ehnes – an amazing fiddler who will be playing with the Oregon Symphony this Saturday, Sunday, and Monday night. Last time Jimmy stopped into the Schnitz he stole my heart with a Bruch concerto, and this time he aims to do it again with a Bernstein number:

Mr. Ehnes, you’re scheduled to perform Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade with P-Town’s big band ~ How would you describe this work to someone who isn’t familiar with it?

It has a great mix of everything – lyrical melodies, great virtuoso writing, and a really raucous, wild ending with lots of percussion! (People who don’t listen to classical music always seem to like the idea of lots of percussion.)

Nice! Hey, I know it’s a long shot, but did you ever get to meet Mr. Bernstein or see him perform?

Unfortunately, no. I was only 14 when he died. I wish I could have known him, but I’m lucky to be friends with a number of people who knew him well.

I see that George Antheil’s Jazz Symphony is also on this All-American program. If this composer was a sports car, what would he be?

If Antheil were a sports car, he would be a Shelby AC/Cobra – a true American original.

Word. Um, speaking of composers, if you could invite 3 of them to dinner, who would you choose and where would you go?

Definitely Mozart – I think he would be a lot of fun. Berlioz would probably be very interesting. And I think I’d like to have known Mendelssohn; he seems to have been universally liked and admired. Where would we go…? There’s a REALLY great barbeque restaurant near where I live in Florida called Hickory Hollow. I’d take anybody there. And I’ll bet Mozart never had any good Southern barbeque.

Love the idea of Wolfgang chowing down on ribs! So… I’m wondering if you have any special pre-concert rituals or exercises or routines?

Not really. Life on the road can be so unpredictable; I think it’s best to just be able to roll with the punches.

Amen to that! Mr. Ehnes, you are a member of the Order of Canada – what are your responsibilities as a member and, more importantly, do you have a sword?

Sadly, I do not have a sword. Being a member of the Order of Canada is a tremendous honour; the idea behind the order is to form a very loose association of Canadians who each, in their own way, strive to make the country a better place. I hope I can do my part.

If I could buy you a drink, what would you order?

How fancy is the bar? Upscale: champagne cocktail. Dive: Bud Light. Either would make me happy.

Bud Light it is then. Hey if my math is correct, your violin will be celebrating its 300th birthday pretty soon – any plans for a party?

Ha! It’s an amazing milestone, but my Strad doesn’t like to party. Maybe it’s a good excuse for my wife and I to have a nice bottle of champagne!

The penultimate question: What non-classical music are you excited about?

My latest new favourite is Lyle Workman’s soundtrack from the movie Superbad. Great new funk, and some old classics like the Bar-Kays.

Can I just say I love your spelling of “favourite.” Sorry, just had to say that. Okay, final query: What are you expecting from Rip City?

I’m sure it will be a great musical experience. And Carlos is always wonderful – we’ve worked together several times in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Dallas, and he’s one of my favourite conductors. I think it should be a really fun week!

Oh – you did it again! Alright folks, get your tix now to catch one of my favourite violinists play with my favourite band this weekend or Monday night. Mr. Ehnes, thanks so much for the chat!


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