In a seamless fusion of artistry and partnership, James Ehnes and Andrew Armstrong continue to craft sonic narratives that leave an indelible mark on the musical landscape. The culmination of their Beethoven sonata cycle received accolades as “life-enhancing,” and their latest album emerges as a testament to their remarkable synergy. While venturing into distinctly different terrain, their prowess remains undiminished.
The cornerstone of this album, Szymanowski’s “Mythes,” unveils a tapestry of emotion and sensuality, meticulously woven through layers of color, precision, and technical brilliance. A unity of expression and intent envelops the listener, ensnaring the senses within an intoxicating atmosphere. The haunting allure of “La fontaine d’Aréthuse” unfolds as Ehnes’s tender lines glide above Armstrong’s fluid figurations, captivating the soul. In “Narcisse,” the emotional epicenter of the performance, ardor unfurls alongside shimmering chords, evoking the undulating waters that bewitched Narcissus. The subtlety of suggestion and the fires of passion converge, creating an arresting tapestry. The journey concludes with “Pan et les oiseaux,” a dance that oscillates between wit and seduction, leaving an indelible impression that lingers.
While Szymanowski’s mystique lingers, Handel’s Sonata in D provides a striking contrast, revealing a directness that punctuates the album’s thematic journey. The performance resonates with forthrightness and clarity, underscoring the duo’s deft interpretation of their own edition.
The cadence continues with a captivating array of encores, akin to the crowning moments of a delectable feast. Among these treasures, James Newton Howard’s “133 … At Least” commands attention with its abrasive vigor, a testament to Ehnes’s mastery. Gracious beauty emanates from Paradis’s “Sicilienne,” while “Flight of the Bumblebee” achieves exhilarating new heights. In the realm of encores, sentimentality and convention are replaced by freshness and innovation, rendering each piece an unparalleled gem.
James Ehnes and Andrew Armstrong’s collaboration radiates with brilliance, unfurling tales through their instruments that transcend mere sound. This album is a testament to their creative alchemy, their ability to enrapture hearts, and their commitment to redefining musical possibilities. An engaging journey, a captivating exploration – do listen, and be captivated.