Here's your disc of the week for Feb. 17, 2013. Each week CBC Radio 2's In Concert looks at new classical music releases and selects one recording that you'll want to know about. 

Artist: James Ehnes, violin and Andrew Armstrong, piano.

Repertoire: Béla Bartók: Sonatas and Folk Dances for violin and piano.

Label: Chandos.

Any new disc by the phenomenal Canadian violinist James Ehnes is worth paying attention to; the latest release by this Brandon-born international superstar is a stunner.

Working with the accomplished American pianist Andrew Armstrong, a frequent musical collaborator, Ehnes explores the music of 20th-century Hungarian composer Béla Bartók, offering a set of suites based on traditional Hungarian Romanian folk tunes. Bartók, a true pioneer of ethnomusicology, scoured the towns and villages of his native land in search of authentic music-making among Magyar peasants, and composed dozens of pieces, like these charming suites, based on the music he discovered on field trips to the Hungarian countryside. These pieces are a complete joy, full of zesty rhythms and infectious melodies, and performed with audacious freedom and verve.

In contrast, the album includes the Sonata for Solo Violin, which Bartók composed for the British virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin in 1944. This angsty, astringent essay for lone violin calls out for all the things Ehnes has to offer as a musician: impeccable intonation, bravura technique, a richly focused tone and a fully developed musical point of view.

The Grammy-winning violinist has already shown his affinity for the music of Bartók in a much-admired 2011 release of the violin concertos with the BBC Philharmonic. This brand new CD, his 32nd!, is a wonderful addition to Ehnes's ever-expanding catalogue of exquisite recordings.

listenBartók: Romanian Folk Dances (1925-26).


Related Links:

James Ehnes's top 3 violin concerto openings

Manitoba Chamber Orchestra with James Ehnes: season finale concert

Canada's Afiara String Quartet performs Bartok's third quartet from the Banff International String Quartet Competition in 2010


posted by Denise Ball on Feb 17, 2013