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Violinist James Ehnes To Play Music By Hunger Games Composer

May 3, 2018

Violinist James Ehnes made his reputation recording music like the Ravel Berceuse and other classical works, like Mozart's violin concertos.

But this weekend with the Florida Orchestra, he will play a work by James Newton Howard, who is best known for composing for the movies, like the Hunger Games franchise.

Ehnes told the Detroit Symphony Orchestra there's a funny story that goes along with his collaboration with Howard.

“I was at a movie called Signs, an M. Night Shyamalan movie about…yes… when did that come out about 15 years ago...and the opening credits, the music is so riveting and so gripping, that I swear this is true, my wife, she leaned over and elbowed me and said, ‘This guy should write you a violin concerto’ and I kind of laughed and thought, Right, like that's ever going to happen,” Ehnes said.

The Pacific Symphony commissioned James Newton Howard to write a violin concerto for Music Director Carl St. Clair's 25th anniversary.

Ehnes gave the world premiere. It's the same work he's performing in the Tampa Bay area this weekend.

“James has managed to write a piece very much in the grand tradition that totally his own and inimitable, so I think that’s one of the reasons why it impresses me so much,” Ehnes said.

Ehnes said he and Florida Orchestra Music Director Michael Francis have been planning to work together for a couple of years. Although they met years ago when Francis was a double bassist with the London Symphony Orchestra, their friendship really began through the Mainly Mozart Festival, where Francis is Music Director.

And he and Francis are going through some similar passages. They're both originally from other countries, Ehnes from Canada, Francis from England. 

They both live on the West Coast of Florida, and they are both building homes in their respective cities. 

“Yeah, it’s been an exciting year, I think, for both of us. We both have these challenges of the young families and it is fun meeting someone in the business who’s going through a lot of the same exciting bits of life as you, so we’ve bonded over that as well.

While Ehnes' musicianship has won him a Grammy and a Juno award, he said, for him, it all comes down to the music.

“I know how much this music has meant to me in my life and I'm in this wonderful position to hopefully bring that to all the members of the audience as well, so if I feel like I'm able to do that, that's a very gratifying thing and that's really what it's all about,” Ehnes said.

Florida Orchestra audiences will get to hear the Howard concerto, featuring violinist James Ehnes, in concerts in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater Friday through Sunday.