Eldbjørg Hemsing with new recording release ‘Grieg – The Violin Sonatas’

Credits: Photography by Nikolaj Lund

Following the acclaimed recordings of concertos by Borgström and Shostakovich, Dvořák and Suk, and by Tan Dun, Eldbjørg Hemsing is following in the footsteps of her great-great-grandfather, who once inspired Edvard Grieg to compose one of his most famous works. Joint by Macedonian pianist Simon Trpčeski, Eldbjørg is embarks the journey of Grieg violin sonatas on her latest release on BIS Records.

As a celebrated ambassador of Norwegian cultural heritage, Eldbjørg Hemsing was always going to turn to Edvard Grieg eventually – a composer who is central to both Norwegian music history and the Romantic era in general. Hemsing’s new recording of Grieg’s three violin sonatas on BIS Records also has a much more personal biographic background, however.  

In 1848, Ludvig Mathias Lindeman received funding from the Collegium academicum of Christiania (Oslo) University to collect folk tunes for Edvard Grieg. During his travels across Norway, he stayed in Valdres and met Hemsing’s great-great-grandfather Anders Nielsen Pelesteinbakken, who sang a tune to him. Lindeman noted it down and Grieg later found it in the collection. The small fragment of the folk tune must have caught the composer’s attention and he subsequently used the melody as the inspiration and main theme of one of his greatest works for solo piano, the Ballade, Op. 24

Over 170 years later, Eldbjørg Hemsing is presenting her own interpretation of Grieg’s three sonatas for violin and piano. The sonatas are considered to be representative of different stages in Grieg’s artistic development and were composed over a period of 20 years. The second violin sonata can be seen as one of Grieg’s great successes in capturing the musical identity of his native country, particularly in the sequences based on peasants’ dances. Because of her passion for preserving Norway’s rich folk music heritage – as demonstrated in her previous projects such as the second ever recording of Hjalmar Borgström’s violin concerto – Hemsing was keen to explore the compositions of her famous fellow countryman, who so profoundly shaped the Norwegian cultural identity. 

Alongside the Grieg sonatas, Eldbjørg Hemsing is also presenting her first original composition „Homecoming – Varitations on the folk tune from Valdres“ as a testament to the personal significance of this new recording and its history. Moreover, in pianist Simon Trpčeski Hemsing has found a strong musical partner, an internationally acclaimed artist praised for celebrating the rich folk traditions of his own native country, Macedonia.  

Grieg Violin Sonatas will be available exclusively on Apple Music from February 21st 2020. The album will be released globally from March 6th 2020 on all streaming platforms as well as in physical format in your closest CD shop.

DEBUT CD REVIEW IN PIZZICATO

“PIZZICATO SUPERSONIC AWARD: An excellent interpretation of Shostakovich’s first Violin Concerto is paired with the almost unknown, yet interesting concerto written by Norwegian composer Hjalmar Borgström, which equally experiences a more than adequate performance.”

Uwe Krusch | Pizzicato | 7th May 2018

Eröffnet wird diese CD mit dem Violinkonzert von Hjalmar Bjorgström. Wie so viele Norweger hatte er seine Ausbildung in Deutschland, in seinem Fall in Leipzig erhalten. Fand er auch das Studium an und für sich wenig als bereichernd, so inspirierte ihn die reiche Musikkultur, weswegen er lange verweilte. Als er dann endlich nach Norwegen zurückkehrte, war er so in dieser Welt verfangen, dass er dem hochromantischen Stil treu blieb und sich auch nicht darum bemühte, Elemente der norwegischen Musik in sein Wirken aufzunehmen. Das registrierte Grieg mit Verwunderung.

Das Violinkonzert von Borgström ist also diesem romantischen Stil verbunden und, wie der neutrale Titel anzeigt, auch ohne programmatischen Hintergrund, wenn es auch einen narrativen Charakter hat.

Klassisch ist die dreisätzige Form und man hat immer wieder den Eindruck, alte Bekannte wie Brahms, Mendelssohns, Schumann zu treffen, da es die Sprache seiner berühmten Vorgänger intuitiv übernimmt. Dennoch kann man ihm kein Plagiat vorwerfen. Das Stück entwickelt durchaus einen eigenen Charme und ist handwerklich nach allen Regeln meisterhaft gestaltet. Nur hinkt es den neuen musikalischen Entwicklungen zur Entstehungszeit 1914 hinterher.

Eldbjorg Hemsing kann geigerisch aus dem Vollen schöpfen. Ihr Spiel strahlt Souveränität aus, es ist temperamentvoll und bietet dem Hörer einen klaren und schlackenlosen Ton. Dadurch kann sie diese Rarität im Repertoire so ausleuchten, dass das vielleicht ein wenig biedere Werk trotzdem erstrahlt und man mit Interesse bei der Stange bleibt. Ihre hochentwickelten gestalterischen Fertigkeiten setzt sie danach für eine durch und durch überzeugende Darstellung von Shostakovichs erstem Konzert ein. Dieses eine breite Palette von Stimmungen abbildende Werk durchdringt sie mit derartiger Tiefe der Darstellung, dass es eine reine Freude ist. Besonders die Passacaglia lebt von der auch die kleinsten Nuancen auslotenden und herauskitzelnden Ruhe, bevor sie die Burlesque kunstvoll ausgetanzt.

Gemeinsam mit den galant zupackenden Wiener Symphonikern unter Olari Elts werden alle Farben der beiden Werke effektvoll zur Geltung gebracht. Die ausgezeichnete Technik der Aufnahme vervollständigt die positiv zu benennenden Punkte.

DEBUT CD REVIEW IN RESMUSICA

“…an outstanding artist with a warm tone, accurate and precise playing… Eldbjørg Hemsing gives the second movement, the Scherzo, a bewitching and hypnotic interpretation, unforgettable. The other three movements, in the pure style of the Russian musician, place this perfectly controlled version at the level of the greatest recordings. The Vienna Symphony, conducted by the rigorous and experienced Estonian Olari Elts (born in 1971), shares the outstanding merits and contributes to making this recording a subject of legitimate lust and curiosity.”

Jean-Luc Caron | ResMusica | 1 May 2018

Three decades separate the Borgström and Shostakovich concertos for violin and orchestra, representatives of two irreconcilable, if not contradictory, worlds admirably defended on the BIS label.

Norwegian violinist Eldbjørg Hemsing (born 1990), an outstanding artist with a warm tone, accurate and precise playing, has a very honorable career. Her subtle understanding of music is regularly emphasized. This recording, if necessary, furnishes us with a new proof.

The concerto for violin in G major by his compatriot Hjalmar Borgström (1864-1925), a contemporary of Carl Nielsen, returns to the light. He deserves it amply. The fame of this pupil from Leipzig (where he traveled in 1887), who was an ardent defender of German orchestral music and program music, was eclipsed by the eruption of the new modernity emerging around the First World War. His lack of enthusiasm for Norwegian musical nationalism and its icon Edvard Grieg surely contributed to his marginalization. However, the Kristiania Concerto, which was premiered in 1914, was well received because of its rich and abundant melodic writing, passionate, lyrical, rhapsodic, and some splendidly orchestrated passages. In the Adagio there are a few repetitive steps that are strikingly reminiscent of a section of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto (1941)!

Shostakovich’s Concerto for Violin No. 1 in A minor (1948, revised in 1955), written for David Oistrakh and valiantly defended by him (and recorded twice), transports us to another world, fascinating, exuberant and dark, alternately marked by harshness, caricatural dancing and insistent hammering, a concealed confession of the true state of mind of a rebellious and wounded creator. Eldbjørg Hemsing gives the second movement, the Scherzo, a bewitching and hypnotic interpretation, unforgettable. The other three movements, in the pure style of the Russian musician, place this perfectly controlled version at the level of the greatest recordings (David Oistrach, Maxime Shostakovich, EMI, 1972, Lydia Mordkovich, Neeme Jarvi, Chandos, 1989, Yefim Bronfman, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Sony, 2003).

The Vienna Symphony, conducted by the rigorous and experienced Estonian Olari Elts (born in 1971), shares the outstanding merits and contributes to making this recording a subject of legitimate lust and curiosity.

ELDBJØRG HEMSING ON WDR3 TONART

Eldbjørg Hemsing meets das junge orchester NRW

WDR 3 “Tonart” | ARD German-public broadcasting institutions | 6 October 2017

On the occasion of the concert of Eldbjørg Hemsing, performing Violin Concerto No. 1 D minor, Op. 31 from Henri Vieuxtemps (1820-1881) with das junge orchester NRW under Ingo Ernst Reihl at Historic City Hall Wuppertal on 8th October 2017, the internationally upstriving Norwegian artist was interviewed and featured by German broadcasting station WDR 3 in “Tonart”.

Audio stream (7min6sec):