The Strad Issue: June 2019 Description: ‘World music’ violin concertos receive fiery, thrilling performances
Theatrical, charismatic and intricately detailed, these two violin concertos by Tan Dun are the perfect showcase for his sensuous sound world.
As a teenager Tan became the conductor of a travelling Peking Opera troupe: echoes of its colourful style are never far from his delicate textures, recorded here with brilliance and vibrancy.
The first concerto, ‘Rhapsody and Fantasia’, grew out of an ancient opera melody. From this, Tan conjures an eclectic but immensely likeable work that somewhat improbably pits dance-worthy beats (in two movements entitled ‘hip-hop’) against a rich seam of lyricism from the violin.
Under the baton of the composer himself, Norwegian Eldbjørg Hemsing shows a deep affinity for this music, from the lush, yearning lyricism of the Rhapsody’s middle-movement Malinconia to the more esoteric Fantasia, in which lovely pinpricks of orchestral detail add shade to the violin’s searching lines.
The five-movement ‘Fire Ritual’ of 2018 builds on the earlier work’s sense of ceremonial, the violin pitted against the war-like, powerfully expressive declamations of the orchestra.
After the brittle march of the third movement, the tumult clears for the solo violin to emerge. The shared, gorgeous melody of strings and soloist in the fourth movement gives way to a final, sorrowing melody from the violin, perfectly judged by Hemsing: a haunting end to a compelling disc.
Hemsing Festival is an international chamber music festival in Aurdal in Valdres, and the artistic leaders are Eldbjørg and Ragnhild Hemsing. The two sister founded the festival in their hometown in 2013 and it takes place each year in week 8.
Eldbjørg Hemsing and her sister Ragnhild Hemsing are Artistic Directors of the Hemsing Festival. The festival´s goal is to facilitate “intimate encounters with great music”. The magical mood created by close contact between the audience and the musicians means a lot.
« It is thanks to the young talents who not only want to ride old war horses, but also present new things, that the instrumental concerto as a genre will never die out. Norwegian violin princess Eldbjørg Hemsing already made a name for herself as an archaeologist when she successfully excavated the unconventional, surprisingly attractive violin concerto from 1914 by her fellow countryman Hjalmar Borgstrøm. Now she shows her interest in contemporary music. Together with the Oslo Philharmonic, conducted by the composer, she plays two Tan Dun concerts: “Rhapsody and Fantasia” and “Fire Ritual”, which was written for Hemsing. These pieces, in which Beijing opera, percussion thunderstorms and the most modern composition techniques blend together ingeniously, offer Hemsing every opportunity to fully unfold her sound fantasy. This ranges from flashing top notes and sharp glissandi to the imitation of traditional Chinese singing techniques or almost soundless whispering. This sounds attractive, enchanting and demands a soloist of eminent quality, like Hemsing. (Bis)»
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.
She practically grew up with this work, she says. Indeed, young violinist Eldbjørg Hemsing feels noticeably at home in Dvořák’s Violin Concerto. The way she makes her instrument sing with an amazingly nuanced and beguiling tone full of vibrancy has compelling intensity. Nothing sounds laboured here, everything seems to happen spontaneously in this music. The Antwerp Symphony Orchestra under Alan Buribayev is extremely present and sensitive in this interaction and unfolds a tremendously broad spectrum of colours. The folkloristically inspired finale of the Violin Concerto impresses with light-footed verve and shimmering airiness. A new benchmark recording has been achieved here in every respect. The longingly agitated modernity of the fantasy of Dvořák’s pupil and son-in-law Josef Suk with its subtle shades and surprising changes additionally shows the great potential of Hemsing and her colllaborators.
“…mit der 28 Jahre alten Eldbjørg Hemsing begeistert nun wieder eine junge Geigerin aus Norwegen. Hemsing ist nicht nur eine feinsinnige und kluge Interpretin, sie entlockt ihrer Guadagnini auch einen sehr persönlichen, unverwechselbaren Geigenton. Zart, intim und filigran wirkt er im Kern, dabei aber selbst im gehauchten Piano noch sinnlich und klangvoll.”
Julia Spinola | 2. Oktober 2018 | Süddeutsche Zeitung
Es muss etwas Verzauberndes in den nordischen Fjorden und Berglandschaften liegen. Nachdem die bereits mehrfach preisgekrönte Vilde Frang die internationalen Podien erobert hat, begeistert mit der 28 Jahre alten Eldbjørg Hemsing nun wieder eine junge Geigerin aus Norwegen. Mit Musik des weitgehend unbekannten norwegischen Komponisten Hjalmar Borgström hatte sie im April ihr Debüt gegeben. Auch auf ihrer zweiten CD meidet sie jetzt die ausgetretenen Pfade und spielt neben Antonín Dvořáks Violinkonzert die selten zu hörende Fantasie in g-Moll für Violine und Orchester von Dvořáks Schwiegersohn Josef Suk. Hemsing ist nicht nur eine feinsinnige und kluge Interpretin, sie entlockt ihrer Guadagnini auch einen sehr persönlichen, unverwechselbaren Geigenton. Zart, intim und filigran wirkt er im Kern, dabei aber selbst im gehauchten Piano noch sinnlich und klangvoll. Im leidenschaftlichen Forte, etwa im Eröffnungsthema des Dvořák-Konzerts, beginnt dieser eindringlich singende Ton irisierend zu leuchten. Mit ein wenig Fantasie hört man hier den großen David Oistrach heraus, dessen Schüler Boris Kuschnir Hemsings Lehrer war.