Game of Tones? I know it’s not the done thing to comment on CD covers, but when an artist has made an effort to look strikingly, it surely deserves mention. Eldbjørg Hemsing stands in a brooding northern landscape, looking utterly commanding; an image which everything about this disc supports. Its’s not the only possible approach, by any means, but if you hear Grieg’s violin sonatas as wild, fantastic tales of adventure and romance from the distant north, these three magnificent performances should certainly hit the spot.
Hemsing and Simon Trpceski come hard on the heels of more homespun interpretations by Elene Urioste and Tom Poster, and to call them a powerhouse pairing is to do a grave injustice to the poetry, playfulness that are – on the whole – on a heroic scale. Typically, Trpceski creates a setting: opening vast spaces with the soft opening chords of the First Sonata, building grandiloquent climaxes or giving exactly the right springiness to a dance-finale. Hemsing takes the role of an adventurer in these sonic landscapes: combining a gleaming virtuoso panache with whispered, deep-toned confidence on the lower strings.
But they always play as a team. Listen to how they trade phrases at the opening of the finale of the Third Sonata, while Tpceski simultaneously maintains both a background tension and a sense of forward momentum. They’re impulsive too; if I have one reservation, it’s that their immersion in the musical moment occasionally makes Grieg’s sonata structures feel slightly episodic. But the passion and flair of these performances is ample recompense: pristine recorded sound and a fiery unaccompanied encore composed by Hemsing herself are the icing on the cake.
Grieg Three Violin Sonatas
Grieg – selected comparison: Uriste, Poster