• Born 1976
Often appears with
Already a presence to be reckoned with by his early 20s, James Ehnes claims a place among the finest violinists of the day. Ehnes continues to consolidate his strengths.
Born January 27, 1976, into a musical family in Brandon, Manitoba, Ehnes was exposed to a variety of instruments as a child but found himself attracted to the violin. At age four, he began lessons with his father, a trumpet professor at Brandon University, and by nine, Ehnes came into the care of François Chaplin, a respected violin pedagogue on the faculty of Brandon University. Under Chaplin's tutelage, Ehnes won the 1987 grand prize in strings during the Canadian Music Competition; in 1988, he won first prize in strings at the Canadian Music Festival, becoming the youngest musician to have accomplished that feat. At the Meadowmount School summer program in upstate New York, Ehnes began studying with Sally Thomas, whose presence at the Juilliard School of Music in New York induced him to enroll there to continue his work with her. At Juilliard, Ehnes appreciated Thomas' nontraditional instructional methodology; with her, he was able to explore his own solutions to technical and interpretive problems.
Ehnes signed a contract with Telarc Records in 1995. Arts manager Walter Homburger came out of retirement to guide Ehnes' career several years before his graduation from Juilliard with the Peter Mennin Prize for Outstanding Achievement and Leadership in Music in 1997. Ehnes works with many of the world's leading conductors and orchestras, and his success as a recitalist led him to chamber music collaborations with such artists as pianists Leif Ove Andsnes and Louis Lortie and cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Steven Doane. He is the founder of the Ehnes Quartet and has served as the director of the Seattle Chamber Music Society. Among Ehnes' acclaimed recordings are his debut disc, featuring the Paganini Caprices; a collection of Debussy, Ravel, and Saint-Saëns with accompanist Wendy Chen; and the Bruch Violin Concertos No. 1 and No. 3 with Charles Dutoit and the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal. In all, he has won 11 Juno awards and two Grammys. Ehnes has been one of the most visible violinists of the 2010s decade, appearing and recording often in Europe as well as North America. In each year of that decade, with one exception, he released multiple albums, and the year 2017 alone saw five of them. He records mostly for the Chandos and Onyx Classics labels in Britain but has maintained close ties to the U.S., where he lives (in Florida), and to his native Canada. In 2019, Ehnes released three albums, including a new recording of Beethoven's first three violin sonatas with pianist Andrew Armstrong, on Onyx. Ehnes was inducted into the Order of Canada in 2010.