Featuring James Ehnes, Gramophone’s Classical Musical Artist of 2021

By Michael Johns

James Ehnes, photographed by Benjamin Ealovega

USCB Chamber Music is pleased to announce the first concert of its 42nd season, Sunday, October 31, 2021, 5:00 pm. Audiences have come to expect sterling performances and this concert will raise the bar even higher. Canadian violinist and violist James Ehnes – recently named Gramophone’s Classical Music Artist of 2021 – will join pianist and Artistic Director Andrew Armstrong in a duo recital of wistful, enchanting, and formidable music by Brahms and Schumann.

The composers were fast friends and staunch supporters of each other. Robert Schumann, the elder by a generation, predicted greatness for Johannes Brahms and helped to bring it about; Brahms venerated and cared for Schumann in health and illness. Schumann’s Violin Sonata No 3 in A Minor, WoO 27, Märchenbilder (“Fairytale Pictures”) for Viola and Piano, Op. 113, and Brahms’ Sonataensatz were written between 1851-1853. They radiate warmth and accessibility animated by Romantic-period declamation. Brahms’ Violin Sonata No 3, Op 108 is a late work that reveals the composer’s full maturity.

Hailed as “A violinist in a class of his own” (The Times), James Ehnes has established himself as one of the most sought-after violinists on the international stage. Gifted with a rare combination of stunning virtuosity, serene lyricism and an unfaltering musicality, Ehnes is an elite talent in the middle of a major career. He is a favorite guest of many of the world’s most respected conductors. A partial list of orchestral collaborations includes performances with the Boston, Chicago, London, San Francisco, and Vienna Symphonies, the Los Angeles, New York, Munich, and Czech Philharmonics, and the Cleveland, Philadelphia, London Philharmonia, MET Opera, Leipzig Gewandhaus, and DSO Berlin Orchestras.

In addition to his concerto work James Ehnes maintains a busy recital schedule, performing regularly at Wigmore Hall, Carnegie Hall, Symphony Center Chicago, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Ravinia, Montreux, Chaise-Dieu, the White Nights Festival in St Petersburg, Verbier Festival, and Festival de Pâques in Aix. As part of Beethoven’s 250th-birthday celebrations, Ehnes was invited to perform and record the complete cycle of Beethoven’s 10 Violin Sonatas at Wigmore Hall with his longtime recital partner, pianist Andrew Armstrong. In 2010, Ehnes formally established the Ehnes String Quartet, which has performed in Europe and North America. The quartet, with former Artistic Director Edward Arron recently installed as its cellist, appeared on this series in 2018.

Ehnes has an extensive discography, winning many recording awards, with multiple Grammy’s, including “Best Instrumental Soloist Performance” and a JUNO Award for “Best Classical Album of the Year.” His recording of the Paganini Caprices earned him universal praise, with Diapason writing of the disc, “Ehnes confirms the predictions of Erick Friedman, eminent student of Heifetz: ‘there is only one like him born every hundred years’.”  James Ehnes performs on the “Marsick” Stradivarius of 1715.

Pianist Andrew Armstrong has been praised by critics for his passionate

Andrew Armstrong

expression and dazzling technique while delighting audiences across Asia, Europe, Latin America, Canada, and the United States, including recital performances at Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. Armstrong’s orchestral engagements across the globe have featured a sprawling repertoire of more than 50 concertos. Chamber music performances include collaborations with the Elias, Alexander, American, and Manhattan String Quartets, and as a member of the Caramoor Virtuosi, Boston Chamber Music Society, Seattle Chamber Music Society, and Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players. In addition, Andrew serves as Artistic Director of USCB Chamber Music, Columbia Museum of Art’s Chamber Music on Main series, the recently founded New Canaan Chamber Music in New Canaan CT, and from 2017-2021 as Director of the Chamber Music Institute at Wisconsin’s Green Lake Festival of Music. He enhances both performance and administrative activities with sparkling wit and entertaining, informative banter.

In 2007 The Washington Post tried a social experiment on context, perception, and taste: in a banal setting at an inconvenient time, could beauty rise above routine and self-absorption? They enlisted one of the world’s most well-known violinists, Joshua Bell, to play unaccompanied masterpieces on his 1713 Stradivarius in a downtown Washington, DC Metro station. During 43 rush-hour minutes, 1097 people passed by. Only seven stopped and listened attentively, a distressingly small number. Denizens of the Lowcountry! One of the greatest violinists of this era, James Ehnes, is traveling to Beaufort to play for us in our backyard. Attend and be counted! The people of the Lowcountry know better than to pass by such an opportunity. Come and experience this sublime presentation of timeless music.

Join us in person for the unforgettable inaugural concert of USCB Chamber Music’s 42nd season. There are multiple ways to enjoy the October 31, 5:00pm concert—In Person, Live Stream and On-Demand. All concerts are professionally produced, creating great viewing opportunities. On-Demand is accessible four days after the concert and available to view at your leisure for three weeks. For concert information or to purchase access to the Live Stream and On Demand videos, go to www.uscbchambermusic.com or call 843-208-8246, Monday through Friday. The USCB Center for the Arts, located at 805 Carteret Street.