The winner of the grand prize in strings at the Canadian Music Competition in 1987, Ehnes began to establish himself nationally. In 1988 he became the youngest musician to win first prize in strings at the Canadian Music Festival. He was also awarded first prizes in the Montreal Symphony Orchestra Concours (1988 and 1992), the Quebec Symphony Orchestra Competition (1989), the Women's Musical Club of Toronto competition (1992), the National Concerto Competition in Michigan (1993), the WAMSO competition (1993), and the CBC Radio Competition (1993). He won the Canada Council's Virginia Parker Prize in 1997, the first Ivan Galamian Memorial Award in 1994, and an Avery Fisher career grant in 2005. In 2007 Ehnes became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 2010 he was named a Member of the Order of Canada.
Since his orchestral debut at 13 with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Ehnes has appeared under the direction of conductors such as Ashkenazy, Andrew Davis, Charles Dutoit, Iván Fischer, Gielen, Graf, Hickox, Järvi, Litton, Zdenĕk Mácal, Mackerras, Noseda, Ozawa, Skrowaczewski, Thielemann, and Bramwell Tovey. He has performed in the UK with the London Symphony, the Philharmonia, the BBC Philharmonic, the National Orchestra of Wales, and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra; in Europe with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin, Orchestre de Lyon, Orchestre de Liege, the Gulbenkian Orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic, Residentie Orkest of The Hague, the Budapest Festival Orchestra, and the Finnish Radio Orchestra.
In Asia James Ehnes has also appeared with the NHK Symphony Orchestra, the Malaysian Philharmonic, and the Hong Kong Philharmonic; in the US he has performed with the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, and in most major cities; and in Canada with the Montreal Symphony, the Toronto Symphony, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Symphony Nova Scotia, and the Edmonton, Quebec, Vancouver, Victoria, Winnipeg, Calgary, Ottawa, Saskatoon, Kitchener-Waterloo, Thunder Bay, Newfoundland, and other symphonies as well as with the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. He has collaborated with artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, as well as in chamber music trios with pianist Louis Lortie and cellist Jan Vogler.
Ehnes has appeared in recital around the world in cities such as Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, and Vancouver; London, Paris, Lisbon, Prague, Tokyo, Osaka, and Washington, DC. He has also performed at major international festivals such as the Ravinia, Marlboro, Seattle Chamber Music, Bravo! Vail Valley Music, Tokyo Summer Music, Bermuda, Montreux, Chaise-Dieu, Côte Saint-André, Moritzburg, and White Nights festivals.
His instrument is the "Ex-Marsick" Stradivarius of 1715.
Premieres and Canadian Works
In 2005 Ehnes played the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major in the National Ballet's Canadian premiere in Toronto of the ballet Opus 19/The Dreamer, based on the concerto. He has performed the premieres of several works by Canadians, such as Omar Daniel's Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra (with Denis Brott) and Murray Adaskin's Sonata for solo violin (dedicated to Ehnes), as well as playing works by T. Patrick Carrabré, Alfred Fisher, Derek Healey, Elizabeth Raum, Jean Papineau-Couture and S.C. Eckhardt-Gramatté.
Ehnes's double recording of Bach's Six Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin won a Juno award in 2001 for best classical album and a five-star rating from the BBC. The following year, that recording secured for Ehnes the title Young Artist of the Year at the Cannes Classical Awards. His CD of Bruch's Concertos Nos. 1 and 3 with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra won both Juno and Canadian Independent Music Awards in 2002, and Ehnes won the 2003 Juno and ADISQ awards for his recording of the Bruch Second Concerto for Violin and Scottish Fantasy, also with the Montreal Symphony. He won additional Junos in 2007 and 2008, and Grammy and Gramophone awards in 2008. In 2008 Ehnes released Homage (Onyx 4038), a CD/DVD compilation showcasing rare violins from the Fulton Collection. The album was awarded a Juno in 2009.
Ehnes garnered his first Juno nomination for the Paganini Caprices (1995, Telarc CD 80398), becoming the youngest classical musician so honoured. Ehnes revisited the Caprices (2009, Onyx 4044), earning another Juno nomination for classical album of the year (solo or chamber ensemble) in 2010. Later that year, Ehnes released a recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto and Octet, which was nominated for a Juno in 2011. His recording of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, released in 2012, was awarded Best Large-ensemble Classical Album at the 2013 Juno Awards in Regina. He has made more than 20 recordings on CBC Records, Analekta, Chandos, Telarc, Sony Classical, and Black Box.
Prokofiev. The Two Violin Sonatas and Five Melodies. Wendy Chen piano. 2000. Analekta FL 2 3145
Ravel - Debussy - Saint-Saëns. Wendy Chen piano. 2000. CBC Records MVCD 1138
Bruch. Concerto No. 2 and Scottish Fantasy. Montreal Symphony, Bernardi conductor. 2001. CBC Records SMCD 5222
_____. Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 3. Montreal Symphony, Dutoit conductor. 2001. CBC Records SMCD 5207
French Showpieces. Saint-Saëns - Berlioz et al. Orchestre Symphonique de Québec, Yoav Talmi conductor. 2001. Analekta FL 2 3151
Kreisler. Variations on a Theme by Corelli. Eduard Laurel piano. 2002. Analekta FL 2 3159
Piano Quintets. Schumann in E flat major; Fauré No. 2 in C minor. Mira Wang violin; Naoko Shimizu viola; Jan Vogler cello; Louis Lortie piano. 2003. Sony Classics SMK 93038
Dallapiccola. Tartiniana. BBC Philharmonic, Gianandrea Noseda conductor. 2004. Chandos CHAN 10258
Dohnányi. Violin Concerto No 2. BBC Philharmonic, Matthias Bamert conductor. 2004. Chandos CHAN 10245
Romantic Pieces. Smetana - Dvořák - Janacek. Eduard Laurel piano. 2004. Analekta FL 2 3191
Wieniawski - Sarasate. Wieniawski Polonaise, Scherzo - Sarasate Spanish Dances. Eduard Laurel piano. 2004. CBC Records MVCD 1168
Adams. Road Movies. Andrew Russo, piano. 2005. Black Box BBM 1098
Bach. Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord, Vol 1. Luc Beauséjour, harpsichord. 2005. Analekta AN 2 9829
Dvořák. Violin Concerto. BBC Philharmonic, Gianandrea Noseda conductor. 2005. Chandos CHAN 10309
Hummel. London Mozart Players, Howard Shelley conductor/piano. 2005. Chandos CHAN 10255
Barber, Korngold & Walton: Violin Concertos. Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Bramwell Tovey conductor. 2006. CBC Records SMCD 5241
Elgar: Violin Concerto. Philharmonia Orchestra, Andrew Davis conductor. 2007. Onyx ONYX 4025
Author Shirley Gueller
"String player against whom others are measured," Globe and Mail, 3 Apr 2001
"James Ehnes - violinist," Contemporary Canadian Biographies, March 2004
Links to Other Sites
The website for the JUNO Awards and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Scroll down the page to check out the latest award winners and music clips. Sample the latest JUNO Awards CD. From the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
Search for album details, audio and video clips, and special features about your favourite classical performers at the ANALEKTA website.
The official website for the Piano Six Foundation, a non-profit organization that brought outstanding musicians to small communities across the country.
The website for acclaimed Canadian-born concert violinist James Ehnes. Check out his biography, performance schedule, repertoire, audio clips from his recordings, and more.
James Ehnes and the Heifetz connection
Violinist James Ehnes describes the inspirational experience of listening to recordings of Jascha Heifetz in his early career. From La Scena Musicale.
Intermusica: James Ehnes
The Intermusica website for James Ehnes. Includes a bio, music clips, and news about upcoming performances.
An online photo gallery of renowned violinists including many Canadian musicians. Also, click on the names for biographies and check out the links at the bottom of the page for more information about violin music, musicians, and related topics. From Lois Siegel’s website.
Western Canadian Music Awards
The website for the Western Canadian Music Alliance, which promotes the best in western Canadian music. Features the latest news about their annual awards gala. For a listing of previous winners and Hall of Fame inductees, click on the "Awards" link.
Governor General's appointments to the Order of Canada
Scroll down the page and click on the links to brief biographical notes of recent appointees to the Order of Canada. Click on "Find a Recipient" on the left side of the page to find previous recipients. From the website for the Governor General of Canada.
James Ehnes, The Boy from Brandon: Canada's Violin Hope
An article about renowned Canadian violinist James Ehnes. Includes a reference to Walter Homburger, who came out of retirement to serve as his manager. From "La Scena Musicale."