WDR Feature: Volksmelodien in Griegs Violinsonaten (DE)

Julia Kaiser WDR 3 TonArt

Immer wieder hat Edvard Grieg seine norwegische Heimat in seinen Kompositionen verewigt. Julia Kaiser spricht mit Geigerin Eldbjörg Hemsing über die Spuren, die sie in seinen Violinsonaten hinterlassen hat.

Klick Klack feature: Tan Dun’s ‘Fire Ritual’ premiere with Tan Dun and Oslo Philharmonic

Mit Martin Grubinger in Nürnberg / Klick Klack – BR Klassik (3. März 2020)

In Nürnberg spielt Martin Grubinger zusammen mit seinem Percussive Planet Ensemble ein ganz neues Programm. Außerdem in dieser KlickKlack-Ausgabe: der isländische Pianist Víkingur Ólafsson, der chinesische Komponist Tan Dun, die norwegische Geigerin Eldbjørg Hemsing und der Schweizer Tenor Mauro Peter.

Watch full episode – Mit Martin Grubinger in Nürnberg

Ein Bläserensemble ist im Publikum platziert, während sich der Rest des Orchesters auf der Bühne befindet. Auch die Solistin holt erst zaghaft ihre Geige heraus, spielt die ersten zarten Töne zwischen den Zuhörern – und bewegt sich dann langsam, spielend, auf die Bühne. Der chinesische Komponist und UNESCO-Sonderbotschafter Tan Dun hat dieses Konzert mit dem Titel “Fire Ritual – For Victims of War” für die Geigerin Eldbjørg Hemsing geschrieben. Das Werk ist von zeremonieller chinesischer Hofmusik inspiriert, bei der einige Musiker auf der Bühne und andere vom Publikum umringt spielen. “Wie Schamanen, die versuchen die Menschen durch einen besonderen Klang zu erreichen”, sagt Tan Dun. “Fire Ritual” ist ein Memorial für die Opfer von Kriegen.

“Ich möchte mit dieser Musik an die vielen unschuldigen Opfer so vieler Kriege erinnern.”

Der Komponist Tan Dun

Tan Dun und die norwegische Geigerin Eldbjørg Hemsing lernten sich 2010 während der Shanghai World Expo kennen, hier führte Hemsing Tan Duns “Love Concerto” auf. “Wir beide haben eine Art volksmusikalischen Background”, sagt Eldbjørg Hemsing. Diese starke Beziehung zu den Wurzeln der musikalischen Tradition ihrer Herkunftsländer ist etwas, das die beiden seitdem verbindet. “Fire Ritual” ist ein weiteres Ergebnis dieser fruchtbaren Zusammenarbeit.

Hier geht es darum, Gefühle zu entwickeln und versuchen, sie zu vermitteln – wie der Klang aus der Tiefe der Seele kommt.

Norwegische Geigerin Eldbjørg Hemsing
KlickKlack Trailer

Rondo Magazin feature: Mit Fjord und Fiedel (DE)

Rondo - Das Klassik & Jazz Magazin

Jesper Klein / Rondo – Das Klassik & Jazz Magazin (29. Februar — 06. März 2020)

Eine Kulisse, wie man sie schöner nicht malen könnte! Glitzernder Schnee, strahlend blauer Himmel, eine traumhafte Aussicht, nachts ein klarer Sternenhimmel. Das Hemsing Festival, zu dem die Schwestern Ragnhild und Eldbjørg Hemsing ins norwegische Aurdal einladen, spielt rein landschaftlich in der Festival-Champions-League. Mindestens!

Vom 19. bis 23. Februar kamen hier befreundete Künstler zusammen, um an besonderen Orten intime Kammermusik zu spielen. Etwa in der Kirche in Aurdal, der Bergkirche unweit des kleinen Skigebiets oder dem gemütlichen Festivalhotel Nythun, ruhig in den Bergen oberhalb des Tals gelegen. Drei Stunden braucht man mit dem (winterfesten) Auto vom Osloer Flughafen hierher. Für Ragnhild und Eldbjørg Hemsing bedeutet das Festival: nach Hause kommen. Hier in Valdres wuchsen die Schwestern auf, hier verinnerlichte Ragnhild neben der klassischen Geigenausbildung auch die mündlich tradierten, von Dorf zu Dorf verschiedenen Melodien auf der Hardangerfiedel, die auch beim Festival nicht fehlen dürfen. Genauso natürlich wie die Musik des Nationalkomponisten Edward Grieg.

Thematisch kreist das Programm der neunzehn Konzerte, etwas allgemeiner gehalten, um die Themen Freiheit und Transformation. Das betrifft witzigerweise auch den sogenannten „Rakfisk“, unter dem man bis zu eineinhalb Jahre fermentierte Forellen versteht, die hier als Spezialität gelten. Und so gelingt es dem Hemsing Festival, Klassik und Kulinarik zusammenzubringen. Ob beim Frühstückskonzert mit Rachmaninow oder dem abendlichen Vier-Gänge-Menü mit musikalischen Häppchen von Chopin bis Ravel. Um dem Alltag zu entkommen, bietet dieses familiäre und freundliche Festival genau den richtigen Zufluchtsort. Und für den ärgerlichen Fall, dass man doch in dieser Idylle einschneien und nicht zurück nach Deutschland kommen sollte, trotz „mildem“ Winter in Norwegen durchaus denkbar, gibt es eine einfache Lösung: Man bleibt einfach dort. Alle Probleme gelöst.

Fotos innen: Nikolaj Lund, Fotos außen: Jesper Klein, Foto Festivalhotel: Hasko Witte

Radio feature: Das Hemsing-Festival: Klassik im malerischen Norwegen

Von Julia Kaiser / SWR 2 – SWR2 Treffpunkt Klassik

Das Hemsing Festival im norwegischen Aurdal steht im Beethovenjahr unter dem Motto „Freiheit und Veränderung“. Vom 19. bis 23. Februar gab es hier – drei Stunden Autofahrt westlich von Oslo – Kammermusik-Konzerte, umgeben von 1000 Meter hohen Felsen in gemütlicher Atmosphäre. Julia Kaiser hat sich auf den Weg in die verschneiten Berge gemacht.

SWR 2 – Treffpunkt Klassik

Fotogallerie

Review: Trolle und Steinbrecherpflanzen by Dreh Punkt Kultur (Stiftung Mozarteum, February 25th)

Norwegische Geigerin Eldbjørg Hemsing und franzözische Pianist Julien Quentin - Konzert in der Stiftung Mozarteum

Review by Gottfried Franz Kasparek for Dreh Punkt Kultur /Stiftung Mozarteum (Dienstag 25. Februar 2020)

Die junge norwegische Geigerin Eldbjørg Hemsing und der französische Pianist Julien Quentin präsentierten am Dienstag (25.2.) das Programm Sound of Norway“ rund um Edvard Grieg. Mit Vorbildern, Freunden, Erben Griegs – ein nicht nur nordisches Konzert.

Der erste Teil des Konzerts war freilich kein Duo-, sondern ein Soloprogramm von Eldbjørg Hemsing, die zunächst eine kleine, feine Reise durch die Musik ihrer Heimat antrat. Der Einfluss norwegischer Volksmusik, insbesondere der für die faszinierende Hardangerfiedel seit dem 17. Jahrhundert entstandenen, ist diesen Geigenstücken deutlich anzumerken.

Weniger in Ole Bulls hochromantischem Sonntag der Sennerin, sozusagen der heimlichen Nationalhymne. Eldbjørg Hemsing spielt das Stück des legendären Geigers und Grieg-Förderers mit ebenso herzerfrischend blühendem Ton wie den anrührenden Letzten Frühling Edvard Griegs. Dagegen sind die Werke von Komponisten des 20. Jahrhunderts zwar im Grunde spätromantisch, aber mit jener eigentümlichen Bitonalität und vertrackten Mehrstimmigkeit angereichert, für die das Volksinstrument steht, natürlich auch mit dem mitreißenden Schwung der Tanzmusik. Bjarne Brustads Märchensuite führt mit Animo in die Welt der Trolle und Feen. Øistein Sommerfeldts Sonata Saxifraga führt das Leben von Steinbrecherpflanzen in den Bergeshöhen farbenreich durch die Jahreszeiten. Stücke, welche auch die Virtuosität der Interpretin fordern, die aber ganz selbstverständlich da ist.

Mit zwei Sätzen von J. S. Bach – Corrente und Sarabande aus der zweiten Partita für Violine solo – und der von Eugénè Ysaÿe dem Kollegen George Enescu gewidmeten d-Moll-Solosonate wurde das Programm sozusagen europäisch. Eldbjørg Hemsing spielt diese Höhepunkte der Violin-Sololiteratur mit großer Natürlichkeit und gleichzeitig klanglicher Raffinesse. Auf einer Guadagnini-Violine von 1754, die wohl auch in den Händen Ysaÿes gewesen ist, wie Frau Hemsing erzählt. Denn sie moderiert auch, mit Geist und Charme, in bestem Englisch. Nach der Pause zwischen zwei Sonaten noch ein stimmungsvolles Solo. Homecoming heißt es und ist die erste und bisher einzige Komposition von Eldbjørg Hemsing. Denn ihr Ur-Ur-Großvater hat Edvard Grieg einst eine schwermütige Volksmelodie vorgesungen, die innerhalb der Familie tradiert wurde und nun von der Nachfahrin durchaus romantisch klangvoll verarbeitet wurde. Grieg verwendete die Melodie übrigens in seiner Klavier-Ballade op. 24.

Die beiden Sonaten bringen die Bekanntschaft mit Julien Quentin, der ein fabelhaft mitatmender, aber auch differenziert mitgestaltender Klavierpartner ist. Zunächst die zweite Klaviersonate von Johannes Brahms, geschrieben am Schweizer Thunersee und ein Meisterstück zwischen altersweise harmonischer Kunst und von der Landschaft und einer späten Liebe inspirierter, sehnsuchtsvoller Melodik ausgewogen. Warum Brahms? Er war mit Grieg befreundet und schätzte die Musik des Kollegen hoch. Grieg wiederum betrachtete den zehn Jahre ältern Brahms als bedeutendes Vorbild, obwohl seine Violinsonaten schon allein wegen der folkloristischen Färbung ganz anderen Charakter haben. Die dritte in c-Moll ist eine gefühlsintensive und melodienselige Klangreise, in der schöne Wehmut oft mit herb aufjauchzender Tanzlaune hart kontrastiert. All dies kann man nicht souveräner und technisch perfekter, vor allem aber nicht mitteilsamer und direkt anspringend vermitteln als Eldbjørg Hemsing und Julien Quentin. Der jubelnde Applaus bewirkte zwei Zugaben: Jules Massenets elegische Meditation aus der Oper Thaïs und als stimmigen Schluss den spielerischen zweiten Satz aus der ersten Grieg-Sonate.

Review: GRIEG VIOLINSONATEN by Online Merker (DE)

CD GRIEG VIOLINSONATEN – Eldbjørg Hemsing, Simon Trpčeski; BIS

Eldbjørg Hemsing, Simon Trpčeski Grieg: The Violin Sonatas BIS, VÖ 6.3. 2020 Edvard Grieg: Sonate Nr. 1in F-Dur, Op. 8 Sonate Nr.2 in G-Dur, Op. 13 Sonate Nr. 3 in C-Moll, Op. 45
Eldbjørg Hemsing: Homecoming (2019)

Eldbjørg Hemsing: Ahnenforschung mit Edvard Grieg Auf ihrem neuen Album, das am 6.3.2020 bei BIS erscheint, folgt Eldbjørg den Spuren ihres Ururgroßvaters, der einst Edvard Grieg zu einem seiner bekanntesten Werke inspirierte.

Wer wie Eldbjørg Hemsing zu den renommiertesten Botschafterinnen der norwegischen Musikkultur gehört, kommt an Edvard Grieg nicht vorbei – als Leitfigur der norwegischen Romantik ist der Komponist noch heute zentral für das musikalische Selbstverständnis des Landes. Dass Hemsing für ihr kommendes Album Grieg-Sonaten einspielte, hat jedoch auch einen weitaus persönlicheren, biografischen Hintergrund. 1848 reiste Griegs Assistent Ludvig Mathias Lindeman durch Norwegen, um für seinen Arbeitgeber besonders schöne und interessante Volksmelodien zu recherchieren. In Valdres, dem Heimattal der Hemsing-Familie, traf er dabei auf Anders Nielsen Pelesteinbakken, Eldbjørg Hemsings Ururgroßvater. Dieser wies Lindeman auf ein Melodiefragment hin, das Grieg schließlich scheinbar so inspirierte, dass er es zum Thema der berühmten Ballade (Op. 24) machte.

Gute 170 Jahre später präsentiert nun Eldbjørg Hemsing ihre Interpretation von Griegs drei Sonaten für Geige und Klavier. Die Werke gelten als repräsentativ für verschiedene Schaffensphasen Griegs und entstanden über einen Zeitraum von über zwanzig Jahren. Besonders in der zweiten Sonate eröffnet sich dem Hörer Griegs Anliegen, die nationale Klangkultur seines Heimatlandes musikalisch abzubilden, u.a. durch an Bauerntänze angelehnte Sequenzen –, ideales Material für Eldbjørg Hemsing, die sich seit langem leidenschaftlich für den Erhalt der folkloristischen Musiktradition Norwegens einsetzt. Auch auf vergangenen Veröffentlichungen wählte Hemsing deshalb Komponisten wie Antonín Dvořák und Hjalmar Borgström, die entweder starke Bande zu Norwegen oder zur Volksmusik ihrer Heimatkultur pflegten. Wer also könnte eine geeignetere und authentischere GriegInterpretin sein als Hemsing? Den Grieg-Sonaten zur Seite gestellt hat die Violinistin die Eigenkomposition „Homecoming“, die auf einer Volksmelodie aus Valdres basiert –, auch als Entsprechung dafür, welch persönlichen Stellenwert die neue Einspielung für sie einnimmt. Mit dem Pianisten Simon Trpčeski holte sich Hemsing darüber hinaus einen starken musikalischen Partner ins Boot, seines Zeichens Nationalkünstler seiner Heimat Mazedoniens und ebenfalls für sein Interesse an traditioneller Volksmusik bekannt.

Written by: Online Merker

Die norwegische Geigerin Eldbjørg Hemsing und der mazedonische Pianist Simon Trpčeski nehmen sich auf ihrem neuen Album der drei Violinsonaten von Edvard Grieg an. In einem Zeitraum von über 20 Jahren (1865-1886) entstanden, repräsentieren diese Duosonaten unterschiedliche Schaffensperioden und künstlerische Aspekte des Komponisten. Die frühe Sonate in F-Dur des 22-jährigen Grieg wurde vom Kollegen Niels W. Gade zwar gelobt, allerdings fehlen der Musik noch jenes Wissen um die tiefsten Aspekte der Seele und jene individuell charakterisierten polaren Klangwelten, die den späten Grieg auszeichnen. Die Musik scheint direkt einer nordischen Landschaft entsprungen. Dieser unbeschwert, melodisch frische Spaziergang über Wiesen und Felder, von Blume zu Blume, erzielt in der lebendigen Wiedergabe durch Hemsing/Trpčeski eine Wirkung wie ein durchkomponiertes Lieder- und Balladenalbum ohne Gesang. Positiv fällt sofort die Augenhöhe in der Ausdruckskraft der beiden Solisten auf. Der passionierte Zugriff und das glasklare Spiel des Pianisten tragen maßgeblich dazu bei, dass sich die Geigerin in ihrem Spiel wie der sprichwörtliche Fisch im Wasser bewegen kann. Das stimmungsvolle überschwängliche bis verträumte Allegro molto vivace gibt Gelegenheit, virtuos loszulegen, aber auch empfindsam der romantischen Grundanlage des Werks freien Raum zu lassen.

Die Sonate in G-Dur wurde im Sommer 1867 geschrieben. Ob sie eine Liebeserklärung an Griegs Frau Nina Hagerup war oder generell als ein Hymnus auf die Hochzeitsfeiern des ländlichen Norwegens gehört werden soll, sei dahingestellt. Folklore und Tänze dominieren jedenfalls diese Sonate, was den berühmt berüchtigten Wiener Kritiker Eduard Hanslick dazu verleitete, Grieg als „Mendelssohn im Robbenfell“ zu bezeichnen. Grieg wählte einen bekannten Volkstanz namens Springdans als Modell für den ersten und den letzten Satz, dazwischen gibt es melancholischere Seiten zu erkunden. Norwegen stand damals unter dänischer Herrschaft und das nationale Element in der Musik zu pflegen, war ein in Europa weit verbreitetes Phänomen. Dennoch erzählt Griegs Werk pointiert überdies von den Einflüssen, die Beethoven und Schumann offenbar auf sein Schaffen bewirkt haben. 

Was zudem auffällt, ist die enorme kompositorische  Entwicklung, die Grieg in den beiden Jahren seit dem Erstling durchlebt hat. Wesentlich komplexer, differenzierter in der Atmosphäre und den lautmalerisch entwickelten Stimmungen, folgen auch die beiden Interpreten voller Elan dieser kurvigen Spur. Faszinierend ist das traumwandlerische Miteinander von Eldbjørg Hemsing und Simon Trpčeski in Dynamik und Tempo, das Ballabgeben und -aufnehmen, das kunstreiche Dribbeln, die gestische Lebendigkeit ihrer Interaktion.

1886, als höchst erfolgreicher Komponist, Pianist und Dirigent, setzte sich Grieg noch einmal mit dieser kammermusikalischen Form auseinander. Inspiriert von der jungen italienischen Geigerin Teresina Tua, entstand die reifste und interessanteste der drei Sonaten, diesmal in c-Moll. Wiederum ist die rhythmische Kraft des Spiels, die Eleganz und Verinnerlichung des Tons zu konstatieren. Letztlich aber sind vor allem die zahllosen hier farblich dunkleren Abschattierungen zu bewundern, die die beiden Solisten voller Finesse aus den Noten zeichnen. Trotz des intimen, in keiner Faser aufdringlichen Duktus’ der Sonate stellen sich verblüffende orchestrale Effekte ein.

Wer diese meisterlichen kammermusikalischen Edelsteine noch nicht kennt, kann mit diesen magisch schönen Interpretationen sein Glück versuchen.

Written by: Dr. Ingobert Waltenberger, Online Merker

Grieg Recording praised by Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE)

Eldbjørg Hemsing’s new recording release Grieg Violin Sonatas together with the acclaimed Macedonian pianist Simon Trčeski on BIS Records received a praising review by Harald Eggebrecht in the Süddeutsche Zeitung´s Klassikkolumne.

“The violin tone of the young Norwegian Eldbjørg Hemsing has something spacious, immediate, unseen, nothing pretentious about it. This goes wonderfully with the three violin sonatas by Edvard Grieg. Hemsing and her piano partner Simon Trčeski do not doubt for a second the quality, intensity, imagination and touching beauty of this music, which is pulsating with a sense of landscape, natural sensations and passion. One can really say that [Eldbjørg] plays so brilliantly and convincingly in her “mother tongue” that it must captivate everyone. The violinist’s joy in inventing music is demonstrated by her fine variations on a folk tune.”

Read full Klassikkolumne from January 20th 2020

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.

Review: Dvořák&Suk Recording in The Strad (UK)

A splendid combination of purity and sweeping, Heifetz-like intensity

The Strad | By Julian Haylock, 16. November 2018

Dvořák’s sole Violin Concerto is not among his most free-flowingly spontaneous scores. It took him four years (on and off) to complete, by which time the intended dedicatee Joseph Joachim had grown tired of the project and, despite having already advised on several changes, was still unhappy about what he considered the terse bridge between the first and second movements and over-repetitious finale.

Only comparatively recently has it become virtually standard repertoire, yet is remains a problematic work requiring sensitive and impassioned advocacy to sound its best. This it receives in spades from Eldbjørg Hemsing, who sustains high standards of intonational purity and beguiling tonal lustre throughout even most awkward of passages. She also shapes phrases with a chamber-scale dynamic suppleness, in contrast to the majority of recorded players, whose tendency towards special pleading often leads to over-projection.

However, the star turn here is the Suk Fantasy, which sounds (no bad thing) like an evacuee soundtrack from the Golden Age of Hollywood, with Hemsing hurling herself into the fray with an almost Heifetz-like intensity and swashbuckling bravado. Alan Buribayev and the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra provide sterling support and the commendably natural recording opens out seductively when the SACD-surround track is activated.

REVIEW OF DVORAK&SUK RECORDING IN FANFARE

Fanfare Review of Eldbjørg Hemsing’s second solo album release

“…flawless intonation, a lovely tone, and, in the bargain, magical phrasing. The finest musicians possess both a keen, unique musical insight, and the technical ability to communicate those insights to their audiences. Hemsing is such an artist. And throughout, Hemsing plays with a true sense of joy that is irresistible… If you are looking for a superb version of the Dvořák Violin Concerto in first-rate sound, the new Hemsing BIS issue gets my unqualified recommendation… This new BIS recording by Eldbørg Hemsing documents the work of a major artist.”

Ken Meltzer | Fanfare | 2 August 2018

Earlier this year (Issue 41:6, July/August 2018), my Fanfare colleagues Colin Clarke and Jerry Dubins offered the highest praise for a debut disc on the BIS label, featuring Norwegian violinist Eldbørg Hemsing performing the Shostakovich Concerto No. 1, and the Concerto in G, op. 25 by Hjalmar Borgström. Now it is my turn to do the same for Ms. Hemsing’s subsequent release, a pairing of the Dvořák Violin Concerto with two works by his pupil and son-in-law, Czech composer Josef Suk, the Fantasy in G minor, and Liebeslied, op. 7, no. 1.

To be sure, the recorded competition in the Dvořák Concerto is strong. My favorites are a 1950s EMI version with Nathan Milstein, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and William Steinberg, and an early-1960s Supraphon disc with Josef Suk (the composer’s namesake and grandson) as soloist, and Karel Ančerlleading the Czech Philharmonic. Hemsing’s new version belongs in that august company. After appearing as soloist in the January 1, 1879 world premiere of the Brahms Violin Concerto, Joseph Joachim requested Dvořák to write a similar work for him. Joachim did not ultimately perform the premiere of the Dvořák Violin Concerto (that honor went to the distinguished Czech violinist František Ondříček). Nevertheless, Joachim worked closely with Dvořák in the creation of the Violin Concerto, with the expectation that it would serve as a showcase for his talents. Of course, Joachim was one of the greatest violinists of the 19thcentury, and the Dvořák Concerto demands a virtuoso of the highest order. Hemsing is more than equal to all of the challenges. Throughout, the soloist is often called upon to play mercilessly exposed passages in the highest reaches of the instrument. Hemsing dispatches these episodes with flawless intonation, a lovely tone, and, in the bargain, magical phrasing. Much the same may be said about all of the virtuoso sections of the work. I don’t think the adjective “breathtaking” to describe Hemsing’s playing is at all hyperbolic. But focusing upon isolated passages in Hemsing’s interpretation risks not doing it justice. To me, the most compelling aspect of Hemsing’s account of the Dvořák Concerto may be found in her grasp of the work’s overall architecture. Throughout, I had the distinct impression that the soloist was approaching each portion with the intent of seamlessly connecting it to what follows. The finest musicians possess both a keen, unique musical insight, and the technical ability to communicate those insights to their audiences. Hemsing is such an artist. And throughout, Hemsing plays with a true sense of joy that is irresistible. While I don’t think that the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Alan Buribayev, equals the tonal richness and vibrant playing of Pittsburgh/Steinberg and Czech Philharmonic/Ančerl, their contribution is of a high level. And the gorgeous recorded sound on the new BIS release offers a far more realistic and thrilling sonic picture than that offered by the prior recordings I mentioned, each well more than a half-century old. If you are looking for a superb version of the Dvořák Violin Concerto in first-rate sound, the new Hemsing BIS issue gets my unqualified recommendation.

In her first BIS recording, Eldbørg Hemsing made a conscious decision to pair a highly-familiar work (Shostakovich 1) with one that has languished in obscurity (Borgström G Major). Hemsing follows a similar approach in the new release, although both Josef Suk and his Fantasia in G minor are both far better known than the Borgström Concerto. Indeed, the Suk Fantasia has frequently appeared as a disc companion to the Dvořák Concerto. Suk was a highly accomplished composer (and for that matter, violinist), who was capable of individual, expressive, and emotionally powerful music (his Asrael Symphony, for example). The Suk Fantasy strikes me as a rather episodic work, but one containing many attractive episodes that certainly afford the soloist the opportunity to display both technical and interpretive prowess. It’s not surprising that Hemsing plays this work superbly as well. But here, I think that the intensity Ančerl and the Czech Philharmonic bring to their 1965 recording with the wonderful Suk (the younger) make a better overall case for the piece.

The BIS recording concludes with Stephan Koncz’s transcription for violin and orchestra of Suk’s Liebeslied, from his Six Piano Pieces, op. 7. It’s a lovely, romantic work that Hemsing plays with great affection.

The booklet includes brief commentary from Hemsing, an essay on the works by Philip Borg-Wheeler, and artist bios (in English, German, and French). Thisnew BIS recording by Eldbørg Hemsing documents the work of a major artist. If you are at all interested in hearing her, and/or are in the market for recordings of the featured works, please do not hesitate. Very highly recommended.

ELDBJØRG HEMSING IN PRESTO CLASSICAL

Eldbjørg Hemsing on Borgström’s Violin Concerto

Katherine Cooper | Presto Classical | 14th May 2018

For her debut solo recording (out now on BIS), the Norwegian violinist Eldbjørg Hemsing pairs Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with a very different (and far less familiar) work: the lush 1914 Violin Concerto by composer and music-journalist Hjalmar Borgstrøm, who initially studied in Oslo with his compatriot Johan Svendsen but went on to pursue a consciously Germanic style after spending time in Leipzig and Berlin.

I spoke to her recently about why this attractively lyrical work has fallen off the radar, where it sits in relation to other early twentieth-century concertos, and her immediate plans for further recordings…

The Borgstrøm concerto is a real curiosity – how did you come across it in the first place?

It was a bit of a chance encounter, really: a family friend sent a pile of sheet-music to my home in London which included the score, and I set it to one side for a while but when I started to go through it in detail I was really intrigued because it’s just so beautiful. It had only ever been performed twice (in Norway), so essentially it was completely forgotten: no-one knew about this piece, and I think it’s a great discovery!

Do you have any theories as to why his music never really entered the repertoire?

There are several factors, I think. First of all it’s because Borgstrøm was a little bit behind the curve in many ways: his timing was not the best! He was composing in this late Romantic style at a time when people were already branching out and moving away from that; of course there had been Grieg, who spent a lot of time travelling around and using folk-music in a very different way from Borgstrøm, who was much more interested in Romantic ideals. He spent a total of fifteen years in Germany, initially studying in Leipzig and then living in Berlin for many years – but by the time this concerto was premiered in 1914, World War One had broken out and in Norway it was considered almost improper to continue in this very German musical tradition. He also composed quite a few symphonic poems, an opera and some piano music, but I haven’t been able to find out very much about them because there aren’t that many studies in print!

You pair the Borgstrøm with Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto – what was the thought-process behind the coupling?

When the offer came to make my first recording I knew I wanted to include the Shostakovich – I studied the piece from a very young age and have performed it a great deal. It’s painfully emotional and really dark: you’re really pushed to the limit of what you can express as a human being, and I thought that with a piece like that you need something that’s very much a contrast. I wanted something that was the complete opposite, something much more lyrical and ‘white’ in sound, something Romantic…and the Borgstrøm seemed to fit the bill perfectly, particularly because people don’t know it!

Are there any other Norwegian concertos that you’d like to bring back to life – Sinding, for instance?

I used to believe that if something wasn’t performed very often there was probably a reason for it (ie that that quality wasn’t good enough!) but I have to say that since discovering Borgstrøm I’ve actually become very curious about what there is out there, so I definitely would like to go on a journey to see what else I might find…!

Given that many listeners will be new to this work, could you point us in the direction of one or two personal highlights in the piece?

I think there’s a particularly special moment in the first movement: there’s quite a long introduction before you come to the first melody, which initially comes in the strings, and it’s very pure and lyrical and tender. And the second movement is my favourite in many ways – it’s like an operatic aria, and it reminds me of something but I can’t quite put my finger on what…It’s very familiar in a sense, but at the same time it has its own very individual sound.

Do you see any parallels with other violin concertos which were written at around the same time? I hear echoes of the Sibelius concerto here and there…

Yes, there’s definitely something similar about both the melodies and the chords – the Sibelius concerto was written 10 years prior to this, so it’s not unlikely that Borgstrøm knew it! But there’s also an operatic quality to the work that reminds me of Wagner in places…

What are your immediate plans on the recording front?

I’m about to start recording with the Oslo Philharmonic and Tan Dun, whom I first met eight years ago. We’ve done a lot of projects together, and this one includes one brand-new concerto and some other smaller pieces.

And the two of you share a passionate interest in the folk music of your respective countries…

Indeed. I started playing the violin when I was very young and I also studied the Hardanger fiddle alongside it, because the area where I come from is very rich in folk-music; I’ve continued to play both instruments and I try to make sure that every year I do some projects which include folk music because I think it’s very important to keep it fresh and alive.

ELDBJØRG HEMSING IN CLASSICAL MUSIC MAGAZINE

Eldbjørg Hemsing prominently featured in May 2018 issue of CLASSICAL MUSIC magazine (UK)

Violinist Jack Liebeck curates this strings edition of Classical Music encompassing his many artistic passions, from music education and photography through to practical advice for performers on maintaining healthy technique and taking instruments on tour. Professors Brian Cox, Robert Winston and Brian Foster explore the relationship between science and music; the benefits of hand therapy for common musicians’ injuries; CITES and travelling with instruments; the art of photographing performers; and what happens when students exercise their rights as consumers in higher education?

Plus, violinist Eldbjørg Hemsing turns up the Romantic heat in Norway; Joanna MacGregor celebrates the 70th anniversary of Dartington International Summer School; Orchestra Manager of the Year Sue Mallet; percussionist and conductor Thomas Søndergård; the role of a recording producer; Gallicantus tackle Orlande de Lassus’s sibylline prophecies; and osteopathy for musicians.

> More details in the digital and print version of CLASSICAL MUSIC

ELDBJØRG HEMSING INTERVIEW IN THE ARTS DESK

Credits: Photography by Nikolaj Lund

Violinist Eldbjørg Hemsing: ‘in the moments when magic happens, you think, that’s why we do this’

On a Norwegian rediscovery, communication and twentysomething enterprise

by David Nice | theartsdesk.com | 28 April 2018

In a classical recording industry seemingly obsessed with marketing beautiful young female violinists, but very often presenting them in repertoire to which most of them seem to have little individual to add, how do you make your mark? Norwegian Eldbjørg Hemsing came up with a bright idea typical of a thoughtful approach in which the music always comes first: to twin a 1914 concerto she genuinely admires by a compatriot very few people will know, Hjalmar Borgstrøm (1864-1925), with what is perhaps the ultimate 20th century challenge to violinists, Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto.

Is the Borgstrøm concerto a neglected masterpiece? No. Is it worth hearing? Absolutely, not only for its authenticity and sincerity of utterance, but also because Hemsing uses it to showcase the lyrical soul of the violin (it’s rich in melodies, some more distinctive than others). Graham Rickson expands in this week’s classical CDs roundup. I admired the new BIS disc enough to make the trip to Bodø above the Arctic Circle in Norway to hear a live performance, not least because I was interested to see how it withstood the “live” test in this much-redeveloped town’s jewel, the concert hall designed in conjunction with the library on the harbour by London-based practice DRDH (architects Daniel Rosbottom and David Howarth).

It held the attention throughout, not least because Hemsing was as much the guiding force behind the work as Eivind Gullberg Jensen, conducting the combined NOSO (North Norwegian Opera and Symphony Orchestra) and Arctic Philharmonic (the performance pictured below by Synne M Tommersberg for Stormen Konserthus). Hemsing was vivacious company at supper afterwards, and the next morning we sat down to talk not only about the work but also about her focused philosophy of music-making.

DAVID NICE Can we start where everybody will, with the debut disc and this very clever idea of twinning a concerto which most of us don’t know with the Shostakovich First Violin Concerto, which we do. Was that your idea or in conjunction with Robert von Bahr of BIS?

ELDBJØRG HEMSING No that was my idea, actually, and first I really wanted to record the Shostakovich, which is a piece I’ve had inside me since I was young, and I was studying with Boris Kushnir, who knew David Oistrakh [the dedicatee of the concerto], had the direct link, and was brought up in this whole environment, this political difficulty and the pain and the sorrow and the distress, and I felt fairly safe just knowing that there had been this contact, also that I played it quite a lot, I thought, OK, what do I play Shostakovich with? And I really wanted the biggest contrast possible, not only in having something unknown but also something that would give the biggest change in sound. For me Shostakovich, to put it simply, is really dark and heavy and you’re pushed as far as you can go as a human being.

And the audience is too…

Yes, it’s really that you are on the edge of your seat, hopefully, and Borgstrøm to me was the complete opposite, there were the beautiful, lyrical Nordic sounds, and I thought, that can be an interesting pairing.

It’s very daunting to be in a market with so many great recordings of the Shostakovich. You say it was the link back with the Oistrakh – did you know any of his recordings of the concerto?

Of course. By the way, this was actually recorded some time ago, and already I’m thinking, did I really do it like that?

You do it differently now?

I do, definitely. But that’s a whole part of why I waited so long for the recording. Because I was a bit afraid of this idea, that when you do something in a four-day recording sequence, that’s put on CD for ever, because music develops all the time, and that was a little bit limited to that time, OK, that’s how it sounded then, and maybe later it will sound different.

Then you can do the Second Concerto, which is astonishing.

It’s beautiful, so dark, too, but in a different way.

The Borgstrøm – my impression was that it’s a wonderful gift for a violinist, and it is your lyricism that carries it. It’s full of great ideas but it could sound a bit loose, you could think, where is this going? You’ve lived with it for quite some time. Do you feel that you’ve become more bound to it the more you’ve played it, and that there’s something deep underneath?

I think so, and there’ something about the piece that from the first moment I opened the score really spoke to me. It is as you say especially in the first movement quite fragmented, so it is a challenge which I think is quite fun to make sense of it, that it leads somewhere, that it has a long line hopefully, because it is very broken down, and the second movement luckily is more like an aria –

The way it opens up towards the end with the pizzicato accompaniment is a “wow’” moment, because you get a lot of breadth…

Exactly. It reminds me of something, I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but it’s a really beautiful moment, I think, and then the third movement is more like a folk dance, but it’s very hard to play, very up and down. It is definitely the challenge to try to keep the orchestra involved, not necessarily to make all one line, but to make it cohesive, and it’s fairly long – 35 to 36 minutes.

And the first movement feels big. That fantastic cadenza makes you really sit up, it’s a big event. Is it all written out?

Yes, and it’s quite a funny cadenza, because everything else is virtuosic, but not to that extent, and suddenly comes this up and down, here and there moment, but Borgstrøm obviously knew how the violin works, because it’s quite well written, actually.

You say you hear Norwegian intonations, we hear a few but to me it’s much more the lingua franca of late romanticism. What strikes you as particularly Norwegian?

There is a particular moment in the first movement when after a few of the runs I have a few trills and then I go on to the A string – it’s just very pure, not many layers, it’s only with the orchestral strings, then the wind come in shortly afterwards, it’s something about the chords and the purity, it’s not overly romantic, which I think is also the Nordic sound in a way, that it’s quite pure.

The orchestration some would call plain, but I think it’s very candid and one feels it comes from somewhere, it’s not “I’m writing a virtuoso concerto,” there’s real feeling. Yet he likes playing with what at the time would have been fairly forward-looking harmonies.

That’s true. He was quite an interesting composer, I think, and it was unfortunately for him just a case of bad timing. He really fell between two chairs, as we say.

Do you think he didn’t seem nationalistic enough to the Norwegians?

I think it’s a mix of different things. It’s a bit like you said because we had the union with Denmark and Sweden altogether for 500 years, at that point everyone was searching for national identity, for what is Norwegian, it was really a big search, and Grieg of course came in there, went round the country gathering folk tunes for his inspiration, and even to this day people identify that with what is Norwegian. Borgstrøm was more focused on Germanic and romantic ideals, and this is the school he wrote in, he spent at least 16 years in Berlin and Leipzig, his development took place there. Also when he wrote the concerto, that was 1914 and there were already new sounds around, it was just a bit old-fashioned in a way. With the two world wars, especially in Norway, it was not the most popular thing to continue with the old German ideas. I think it was a mix of all those things that kept him away from the centre.

It’s very refreshing to come back to a violin concerto that is entirely grateful to the player, because you must find this with a lot of new works, you’ve worked with Tan Dun quite a bit, but many contemporary composers work against the idea that the violin sings…

And I really hope they will come back to that, because I think it’s the purpose of the violin, it has to sing, it’s like a soprano, I really love playing something where you can find the right colours in the sounds, and if it’s too much effect then I feel there’s not really that much you can do with it as a performer.

It often seems to be the idea to make every sound but the legato.

Which is a bit weird, isn’t it? I think so.

I agree. But I think that time has probably passed, you’ve got people like John Adams writing fantastic works.

That’s true. No, I think the lyricism and the melodies have to be there, and I hope people will start writing like that again. Which may be a rather dangerous thing to say, but something more in that direction would be so refreshing it that point.

You may want to say something about Tan Dun, but do other contemporary composers stand out for you for writing gratefully for the violin, that you can think of?

There are many great ones, for sure, I haven’t worked so much on contemporary music other than with Tan Dun and some new Norwegian pieces, I have done a few of those. What I really love about Tan Dun is how rewarding it is to work with a living composer, who takes part in the whole process, and you can actually ask, what do you think of this piece, what is your inspiration, what character do you want at this point? Tan Dun also plays the violin himself so he knows how to write for it, and it’s really inspiring, and fun, too.

With Borgstrøm, you get a sense of his personality, and we were talking a bit last night about how this very dark music almost takes over the finale before the jolly melody comes back. Do you sense the melancholy figure underneath the freshness?

I think when you play the concerto and look at the picture of Borgstrøm, it’s two very conflicting images. Because he seems to have been very conservative and strict, he was also a music critic towards the end of his life, and famous for having a really sharp pen, he didn’t have any inhibitions about saying exactly what he meant, then you have this concerto which is so innocent and somehow a bit naive, it’s fun and playful and it’s bizarre to see that this piece came out of that picture.

As a critic, was he against certain modern tendencies?

Yes, he said that what he really loved and thought people should be more focused on, is programme music. And the late romantic era was his cup of tea.

But I suppose these composers who lived through times of great change had to be true to their roots, or what they heard when they were developing.

Exactly. And that’s him, that’s how he was.

You got to know Borgstrøm’s music through an enthusiast?

That was a family friend, the conductor and bassoonist Terje Boye Hansen. He has been very passionate about Norwegian music and especially about Borgstrøm as a really good composer who deserves to be heard, so he gave me a pile of Borgstrøm’s music, and I took it home to my village, about three years ago, and the Violin Concerto leapt out at me. He told me it had only been performed twice, with a 50 year gap in between. It was a strange and fantastic discovery, and especially now that I’m able to show people. I had pretty much similar reactions both when I was recording with the Vienna Symphony and also with this orchestra, from the first rehearsal – in Vienna we had two days on the Shostakovich, as you know it’s extremely demanding physically, so to come in on the third day and be asked, what is this Borgstrøm? Is it modern, what is it? I said, you won’t know until you actually start playing and they were sitting relaxed and casual, and the minute we started playing the whole atmosphere changed, everyone just had this moment of discovery all together, which was really fantastic. And to be able to see that is really worthwhile, when people become aware of great music.

The conductor was there alongside you last night, but you also seemed to be leading in a sense, they were taking as much from you as from him.

It is a very intertwined work in certain parts, and they overlap a bit and then take over…

Quite subtly…

I think it’s very cleverly orchestrated, actually, and also not to have to fight as a violinist to be heard, that sometimes happened. But I find it’s really well balanced. And most concertos should ideally feel like chamber music.

All music should – it was Abbado’s dictum, that everyone should listen to each other. But this is quite rare in a concerto partnership, because the soloists are jetting around and there isn’t a lot of time to work together. And I don’t know if you find this, but for me there are not that many conductors who are very soloist-sensitive.

No, definitely. And I think what is the most disturbing thing I know is when there is someone who is overly active…

Who tries to impose…

What I rely on is the sound, because that’s what matters, but it’s disturbing in the eyesight to see someone who is over-active, and that stresses me. But I thought Eivind did a really fantastic job last night, and he’s also very easy and just does what he wants to do.

The orchestra sounded like it was inscaping – there was no forcing.

That’s good.

What struck me is that you too have this wonderful inwardness, and you can go from ppp to fff in a couple of seconds, but the audience has to come in to hear you – there’s no forcing out but rather bringing in. Do you have a philosophy about that?

Actually I do, and one of the most important things is to make people really listen. There’s always noise around in daily life, and I think it’s extremely important to try at least to create these moments when magic can happen, and I personally like to listen in a concert to someone who has you on the edge of your seat, when you think, what’s happening, what’s going on, and you need these moments of something different. Those are the moments when you think, that’s why we do this.

The older I get the more I think it’s entirely about communication. You can be a wonderful musician but if you don’t give out, it’s pointless. You could see the music in you when you weren’t playing, and that doesn’t happen a lot with soloists. There was never a moment when one lost concentration, and when I listened to the CD I thought there might be, but it’s a matter of approach.

And I think now that I’ve played it more it is definitely one of those pieces which is better to play live, because it is very interactive, and if it gets too square then it will lose people. Because the piece is a bit fragmented and goes somewhere or takes off…

Which is one of its charms. You were playing in public at a young age. Have you found that the ideals of communication have come more over time, or with certain teachers? Have you learned more about that?

I think from quite a young age it was always important to show what a joy music can be. It’s quite simplistic when you’re young, but there’s so much fun and you want to show that. But I must say that the person who taught me most about that was Boris Kushnir – I studied with him for years, but he told me so much about how the importance of what you have to communicate comes through and even if you feel it and think it, it has to come through the violin, you have to carry the sound, to have this voice as nerve, something that makes people listen, and also to make the colours as if you were speaking to someone.

Oistrakh always said about the first movement of the Shostakovich First Violin Concerto that it’s like a soliloquy in Hamlet – you are the great actor, the monologuist, and people have to be listening to every word. The Norwegian side of it – there’s been a remarkable upsurge of superb players. Is it partly to do with the Barratt Due Institute of Music in Oslo?

I think so. I went to that school for 11 years. And what they do so well is that they have this crazy environment of just friendship and musical freedom, which I personally think is a great thing in Norway, because we don’t usually have these long traditions like Austria or Germany. It’s quite free in that you can try out different styles and play as you like, there’s no “this is how it should be”.

That’s the essence of good teaching, isn’t it, to bring out the player’s personality rather than impose?

Oh yes, yes.

But there is also the folk tradition. Did you grow up with that?

Yes, I grew up playing the Hardanger fiddle. I still play it, I make sure I have several projects a year, because it’s important to keep the style. It’s equally important to the classical violin here. Especially the valley that I’m from, Valdres, each valley or place has its own tradition. So with the tonality and the rhythms, I grew up with that and it’s a huge part of my heritage.

Have you given encores where you’ve changed to the Hardanger fiddle?

Sometimes, I will make sure I bring it our more often. But a little challenge with it is that it’s quite tricky to tune. You should take at least 10 minutes to warm it up. And you have to have one you really trust, because gut strings move around quite a lot. But it’s a beautiful instrument.

Do you have one that is special for you?

No, at home I have quite a few of them, my mum and sister also play them. They’re beautiful and well decorated.

So do you and your sister play duos together?

We used to. Nowadays we tend to play in a festival together. We both do artistic work for it. She’s a great violinist, she lives in Valdres.

You’ve led chamber orchestras as a leader-conductor?

Not so much now, but when I was young I was the concert-master of a chamber orchestra, and we always played without a conductor, and without scores also. It’s really good training, because then you have a much greater understanding of what is happening rather than just playing your part, and you see what’s happening too.

This is a great move now – the Aurora Orchestra too, and the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra do it a lot. Was that your idea?

No, it was from the school, that they wanted us to learn in such a way. I love it with chamber orchestras, when they have this core of really great players who just love to play together.

I was impressed with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra – but they need money to do it, because it costs to take your time.

And this is something I always find a bit confusing in London especially, how musicians are having to rush from one project to another, I have friends there who say, sometimes we don’t even have time to rehearse everything before the concert. What is the point of playing if you don’t prepare for it?

London orchestras are famous for being brilliant sightreaders.

It’s impressive that they can pick up a new score and play it immediately. It’s a very different mentality, though.

Festivals are a good place to develop, and your generation is much more enterprising in gathering together friends and working over a week or two, developing work in the community and so on.

I think many people in my generation and even the generation above have been a lot more aware of how much more you can do yourself, not only in terms of audiences but also your own platform, because there are so many opportunities to do that on social media. It’s like one part has gone out and another has come in. Some people don’t even have agents any more, they have their own YouTube channels. But also now because there have been a lot of chamber music series that have closed down. I also noticed it for myself, that I play probably most of the time with orchestras and very few recitals.

Why is that? Lack of money?

Mostly, yes, because the audiences are there, it’s more like giving a different platform. The reason why we wanted to start a festival in my home village of Aurdal, it’s small, there are 700 people living there, and the whole community has always been very supportive and in the last few years especially, I’ve been travelling a lot and living in Berlin, and I wanted to give something back.

Does it happen in the summer?

No, actually, it’s a winter festival. Because this area is also about skiing. So we wanted to combine that with music and nature. One of the concerts was up in a mountain church, and you can have a guided ski trip before you come to the church, then you hang your skis up on the wall, get a coffee and a cinnamon bun perhaps and then go in and listen to the music for one hour, and then head back on skis. This year we had 30 international artists coming, a great group of people. We did Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht [for string sextet], we left the quartets to the regular team [pictured below: Hemsing and colleagues after a concert earlier this year].

Does that feed into your work generally?

Definitely. And there’s so much buried repertoire I wish I had more time for, and just getting some friends together and playing the quartet repertoire would be good, because it’s such a huge part of music history. Being in a quartet takes a lot of time and commitment, but just to know the repertoire…

This idea of leader-conducting, does that interest you as something to develop further?

I would love to do that, and it was interesting yesterday when someone asked Eivind, does the orchestra need a conductor? And in theory with the top-grade orchestras, they could play perfectly on their own, if they have a really good concert-master and they all function together, but the conductor or leader should give the musical input and shaping. And I love that part, actually, just to have the full picture. I’d love to do that. Have to look into it.

Are there any concertos you really want to champion in the next few years?

Definitely. I don’t have a next project like the Borgstrøm, because that was quite special, but I would love to also play more things that haven’t had the spotlight on them, if a work is really good quality, it’s just a question of having the right feeling for it, that also requires that the piece has something in it. But I’d really love to do the Elgar Concerto.

ELDBJØRG HEMSING DEBUT CD REVIEW IN THE ARTS DESK

Credits: Photography by Nikolaj Lund

Classical CDs Weekly: Borgström

“Wonderfully played […], Eldbjørg Hemsing’s dynamism and rich, warm tone exactly what the concerto needs. She’s really impressive.”

Graham Rickson | theartsdesk.com | 28 April 2018

Hjalmar Borgström sounds like the name of a BBC Four gumshoe, a melancholy detective solving crimes in downtown Tromsø. He was actually a Norwegian composer (1864-1925) who, like Grieg, studied in Germany, remaining there for 15 years. Grieg quickly assimilated his technique with native folk music, later expressing dismay at the younger Borgström’s lack of interest in making his music sound specifically Norwegian. His G major Violin Concerto was premiered in 1914. It’s an ambitious, 35-minute work, brimming with ideas, but you can understand why it’s fallen by the wayside. It’s much more German than Nordic in style. Nothing wrong with that, except that we’re talking conservative late 19th century Germany rather than Strauss. There are flashes of brilliance: the soloist enters within seconds after a flurry of timpani, and the lyrical asides are gorgeous. All very attractive (what a superb close the work has!), but nothing especially distinctive. Wonderfully played though, Eldbjørg Hemsing’s dynamism and rich, warm tone exactly what the concerto needs.

Unexpectedly, Hemsing couples it with Shostakovich’s brooding Concerto No. 1. She’s really impressive, sustaining the argument in the chilly Nocturne and suitably snarky in the scherzo. There’s good orchestral support too from Olari Elts and the Wiener Symphoniker, low winds, tuba and percussion making plenty of impact. Hemsing is at her best in the Passacaglia, the temperature rising inexorably to boiling point. The last movement’s adrenalin rush is joyous. Excellent sound, too – an enjoyable disc.

The Violin Princess of Norway

She takes her concert public by storm all over the world with her 265-year old violin. The lauded musician Eldbjørg Hemsing from Valdres often expresses the sounds of the raw and beautiful Norwegian nature.

Eldbjørg Hemsing brings the sound of Norway to the world

“Eldbjørg is famous in China. We call her ‘The Princess of Norway’.”

The bold words belong to Tan Dun, who is among the world’s leading composers. The Chinese has collaborated with the Norwegian violinist for years and has even dedicated a specially written musical work to her.

Eldbjørg Hemsing started playing the violin when she was a four-year-old growing up in a picturesque village in Valdres in Eastern Norway. Now, people sit quiet and listen every time Eldbjørg lets the bow hit the strings on her G. B. Guadagnini from 1754.

236 years separate Eldbjørg and her musical tool, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a more close-knit duo.

She plays all over the world, in cities like Shanghai, Hong Kong, Valencia, Frankfurt, Koblenz, Leipzig, Berlin, Cologne, Abu Dhabi, Oslo – and in her home town of Aurdal. In March 2018, she released a record with music written by Norwegian composer Hjalmar Borgstrøm.

“When I hear Borgstrøm’s compositions, I think of fjords and mountains and the feeling of moving through nature.”

What sounds did you grow up with in Valdres?
“I remember that the silence intensified all sounds, like the trickling of the water in a mountain stream, the summer breeze through the valley, or the gust of the wind in the tree branches. My mother was a music educationalist and my father worked as a mountain supervisor, so I grew up in a harmonious mixture of music and nature. I often went with my father to work in the mountains to check out the danger of an avalanche or measure fish stocks and water depths. I learned things like building a campfire for preparing meals”, Eldbjørg says.

Valdres is known for traditional folk music that is often mixed with new genres, and it was important to Eldbjørg’s mother that rehearsing should be fun. She could even get 15 minutes of rehearsal in before the children’s television programme started in the evenings.

And now you have played on the rare instrument you have on loan from a foundation for nearly ten years?
“The violin is very personal to me. The sound coming out of its body feels like my own voice. It has a heartfelt depth and warmth, and a wide array of colours. The first Hardanger fiddles are said to be from the 1600s. It’s incredible to think about how much my instrument has been through.”

Growing up, Eldbjørg took time off from the school in Valdres every Friday to travel about three hours to Oslo and the Barratt Due Institute of Music. Her first trip abroad went to the Czech Republic when she was eight. Later, she took lessons in the USA, and from then on concerts all over the world have filled up her calendar.

In March 2018, Eldbjørg released her debut album, including her discovery of the forgotten Violin Concerto in G major signed by Norwegian composer Hjalmar Borgstrøm (1864–1925), who was inspired by German Romanticism. She wanted to share her own enthusiasm about the work with her audience.

You draw a connection between Borgstrøm’s work and Norwegian nature experiences?
“Yes, I perceive his music as a very physical piece – complex and craftsmanlike. When I hear Borgstrøm’s compositions, I think of fjords and mountains and the feeling of moving through nature. The tones can resemble a smell or bring out memories of other encounters with nature.”

Chefs, like the one at Maaemo in Oslo, also say that they serve memories from Norwegian nature?
“Yes, and that is what is so strong about music – it can call forth a personal, but very distinct feeling.”

What is the most enjoyable thing about being a violinist?
“To resurrect a several hundred years old violin, and to breathe new life into old compositions so that both new and traditional audiences get to appreciate how great they are. I am not that interested in interpreting and renewing historical pieces of music, but rather in emphasizing their original strengths.”

Was classical music the rock ’n’ roll of that time?
“You might say that, and classical music is just as cool and relevant still. My line of work has much in common with elite sports. When I perform, I have one chance to deliver my absolute best. I set off with maximum tempo and concentration and don’t stop until I’m finished.”

In 2013, Eldbjørg and her sister Ragnhild started a yearly chamber music festival in their home town of Aurdal in Valdres. The sisters invite top-level musicians, many of whom have become their good friends. And even though the Hemsing Festival has grown bigger every year – in 2018, about 30 international artists performed for 12,000 people, and the festival was broadcasted on national television – the sisters want to keep the intimate feeling the acclaimed musicians get at this stunning place in Eastern Norway.

“International artist friends praise the clear light and clean air in Valdres. They say that it sharpens their senses. They get to taste local food like moose and wild fish, and we take them on skiing trips and other activities,” Eldbjørg says.

How much money is your violin from 1754 worth?
“I honestly don’t know, and that is fine with me. If I’d known, I would probably get the jitters.”

How do you preserve such an old instrument?
“It has to be looked after and cared for, because the wood is still alive even though it’s so old. The case has a humidifier and a hygrometer, and I go to a ‘violin doctor’ twice a year.”

Do you keep the violin as hand luggage when you fly, or do you check it?
“Always as hand luggage. No exceptions. I’d never let something that personal out of my sight.”

Are you ever longing back to Valdres?
“I know that I can always take a break there and find peace of mind. But it is important to emphasize that even though you come from a small and beautiful place, you can still travel and work wherever you want in the world.”

Article from visitnorway.com

FORTE FEATURE FILM WITH ELDBJØRG HEMSING

“Forte” is the new feature film from David Donnelly(“Maestro“) on three strong, utmost remarkable and ouststanding women who are achieving unlikely success in classical music: Norwegian violinist Eldbjørg Hemsing, Argentinian composer and conductor Lucía Caruso and Russian-born violinist Tatiana Berman from the United States.

Story: Forte is the international story of three women who are challenging industry norms by making their own rules in a musical genre steeped in tradition. A young Norwegian soloist champions a rare, self-discovered composition and risks a promising career to bring it to life. A small-town girl, born and raised in the Russian Arctic, gives up an executive position at a top artist management corporation to create her own international maverick agency. An Argentinian composer gets the opportunity of a lifetime. And a cultural entrepreneur and mother of three struggles to balance her family and career. The one thing these bold, game-changing individuals have in common is: strength.

Direction/Production: Forte is written and directed by David Donnelly, founder of Culture Monster and director of the acclaimed hit documentary Maestro. It is produced by David Donnelly and Anastasia Boudanoque, founder of Primavera Consulting. Executive Producer is Roland Göhde of the Göhde Foundation.

Filming Locations: Sintra, Portugal; Cincinnati, Ohio; Paris, France; London, England; New York, New York; Rhinecliff, NY; Mendoza, Argentina; Aurdal/Oslo, Norway; Berlin, Germany; Moscow, Russia

> Forte website
> Forte on Facebook

The first official trailer of “Forte” is out now:

MOMENTS OF ETHEREAL BEAUTY

“Moments of ethereal beauty as the violin’s melody intertwined with those of the woodwinds” – Reviewed at National Concert Hall, Dublin on 3 November 2017

“Dvořák’s Violin Concerto in A minor is at times an elusive concerto to pull off: true to violin concertos of this era, it is not short on virtuosic bravura passages yet its subtle, restless character is a much harder selling point. This was the focus of the soloist, Norwegian rising star Eldbjørg Hemsing as she eloquently meditated on the more wistful writing of the first movement. At times, as high up on the G string in the recapitulation of the opening Allegro, she overindulged in vibrato which obscured the tender lyricism but there were moments of ethereal beauty as the violin’s melody intertwined with those of the woodwinds. The octaves and double stops glowed with passion while the scales and arpeggio were executed with laser-like precision. Her luminous tone added lustre to the ruminative lyricism of the second movement while the NSO responded with a warm and sensitive accompaniment. It was in the mercurial finale that musician and music struck the most rewarding balance. The Slavic folk tune glistened with meticulous light-hearted good cheer, with sharp rhythmic delineations from the orchestra. Capturing the exquisite, ephemeral soundscape, Hemsing expertly handled the shifting cross rhythms and the fiendish octaves, bringing this concerto to an energetic and satisfying close.” > Video Excerpt from Concert of Eldbjørg Hemsing with RTE Symphony Orchestra under Miguel Harth-Bedoya