April 24, 2024

James Ehnes on the Music of Williams/Bernstein – Interview with Presto Music

James Ehnes spoke with Presto Music about his latest album with St. Louis Symphony OrchestraStéphane Denève Williams: Violin Concerto No. 1 & Bernstein: Serenade.

Presto: Can you remember when you first encountered the music of John Williams, and how you came to know this concerto in particular?

Probably like most little boys of my age, it was Star Wars! The Empire Strikes Back came out in 1980, which was the first film I saw in the theatre. As a Christmas present my brother and I got the two-LP set of the soundtrack, and we listened to that a lot, so it was really through his film scores. My father was a trumpet professor, and of course John Williams wrote such amazing trumpet parts! But those films of my childhood like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman, these were parts of my life.

It wasn’t until quite a few years later that I got to know his instrumental music, and my entrée to that was probably the violin and cello concertos. The violin concerto was a piece that had fascinated me, but that I hadn’t actually gotten around to learning until I got a call from Stéphane Denève, who through his work at Tanglewood had become good friends with John Williams. I remember I was on top of a mountain in Bergen, Norway when Stéphane called! He was putting together a project with the Philadelphia Orchestra to do a combination of film and concert music by John, and he asked if I’d be interested in learning the piece. So we got to know it and played it on a couple of occasions. Then this recording project came up in St. Louis, and John came to the rehearsals. It was really quite an incredible thing to work with someone I’d admired for so many years.

James Ehnes

Read the full interview HERE.