You may think you know Nordic history, but there is still so much to be discovered. After all, the stories span generations, stretching back hundreds of years. In this podcast, Norwegian host and violinist Eldbjørg Hemsing aims to answer one question: What is typically Nordic? To investigate, Hemsing and her expert guests deep dive into Nordic mythology, folk music, philosophy, architecture, nature, and more. She speaks with celebrated composers and inspiring artists, discussing inspirations, styles, and dreams. Have no fear if you’re one to zone out during longer podcasts because Hemsing’s interesting questions will bring you right back in.
The Nordics Unveiled really takes listeners on a journey, showing the weird and wonderful side of Nordic history! Hemsing gives ample space for her guests to share their experiences and the audio is crystal clear. She even uses some of her own music in the show’s introduction, so listeners get a truly Nordic experience. This is recommended for the curious and lovers of Nordic history.
We were fortunate to talk with Hemsing about the podcast, how they differentiate from other podcasts, and their future plans in podcasting. See below for our full Q&A.
HEMSING: During the lockdown and numerous concert cancellations due to COVID-19, I finally had the chance to do projects that I usually don’t have the time to fit into my calendar. And during a normal concert season, when performing around the world one of the most common question I get asked is “what is typically Nordic” and “what is the sound of the north”. As a Norwegian, you don’t really ask yourself this question, so I became very curious myself to find out! As a passionate communicator, I thought let’s combine the best components in the situation and share the passion of music to my core audiences and people, who might not know much about classical music.
DISCOVER PODS:In your own words, why should listeners tune in to The Nordics Unveiled?
HEMSING: I really hope people will join me on the journey to discover what the Nordic is, whether its music, history, art, design or just some of the societal values. It is particularly the societal values that are underlying all the conversations, so I would it say the Nordics Unveiled is almost an introduction ahead of your first or next visit. With exceptional guests and surprising discoveries, I hope this podcast will offer new inspiration and insights for listeners to dive into the Nordics.
DISCOVER PODS:What kind of feedback have you heard from your listeners?
HEMSING: We are still on the early side, with only 3 episodes released, but the feedback from listeners is very positive. I particularly feel so humbled, once reading a review from fellow Norwegians, who live on the other side of the world saying “the podcast really makes me feel like I am back home in the North”. So I hope this curiosity from audiences will continue.
DISCOVER PODS:Describe your recording set up? What equipment are you using?
HEMSING: I am quite lucky that I have a technical support to make the podcast sound as good as possible. As a recording artist, the quality of sound is something I would not be ready to compensate on. If not mistaken, we are using the Zoom recorder that is supposed to be one of the best.
DISCOVER PODS:What’s the biggest challenge you face as a classical musician in a role podcaster?
HEMSING: I think the biggest challenge creating a podcast is starting from scratch, without having any mainstream media to lean on as a full promotional challenge. Luckily, I have was able to introduce the podcast also to my performing audiences. On the other hand, I personally like to challenge myself being innovative and not following any other podcasting styles and trends.
DISCOVER PODS:Where do you want to take your podcast?
HEMSING: I would love to take the episodes of podcast on TV – I think we could make a truly fantastic series!
DISCOVER PODS:What other podcasts are you listening to now?
HEMSING: I mostly listen to Norwegian podcasts mostly. In general, I like a big contrast to my artistic profession, so I enjoy listening to the very fact and analysis based podcasts, rather than comedy.
DISCOVER PODS:Anything else you’d like to add?
HEMSING: Subscribe to the podcast and I hope you will join me on the journey to the mystical North!
Hva er typisk nordisk? Hva karakteriserer vår historie, utvikling og hvem er vi i dag? Disse spørsmålene stiller Eldbjørg Hemsing i sin nye podcast, The Nordics Uveiled, som lanseres i disse dager.
Hun tar sikte på å nå et internasjonalt publikum som for tiden er sulteforet på levende konserter, og inviterer dem til å legge ut på en reise nordover for å utforske temaer i nordisk mytologi, folkemusikk og samisk tradisjon, samt oppdage glemte nordiske verk innen musikk, filosofi, arkitektur og natur.
– Den såkalte «nordiske klangen» er sterkt inspirert av natur, stemninger og forskjeller, fra nordlys til høye fjell, dype daler og vann. «Lyrisk», «melankolsk» og «forsiktig optimisme» er ord som ofte brukes om det nordiske; det rene, enkle og pittoreske. Samtidig det modige og kraftfulle, som man forbinder med nordiske folkeeventyr – gjerne forbundet med varm humor. Mange av disse trekkene kan man finne igjen i andre kunstarter. Hvordan har historien formet oss og hva kan vi lære av hvordan vi er i dag? skriver Hemsing i sin presentasjon av podcasten.
De tre første episodene ligger allerede ute. Der presenteres Lasse Thoresen og hans bruk av folkemusikk, Mette Henriette med bruk av sin samiske arv og Ottar Kåsa som spiller «djevelens instrument» hardingfele. Hver episode har en kort skriftlig presentasjon, en spilleliste og lenker til aktuelle nettsteder for videre lytting.
Fiolinisten Eldbjørg Hemsing har lansert podcasten The Nordics Unveiled, der hun ønsker å utforske temaene nordisk mytologi, folkemusikken, samisk tradisjon, oppdagelse av glemte verk innenfor musikken, filosofi, arkitektur og natur. Slikt blir det spennende lytting av.
Eldbjørg Hemsing har vokst opp i en bygd og et dalføre som har en rik folkemusikktradisjon som har påvirket og inspirert komponister som Grieg, Ole Bull og Halvorsen. Folkemusikken har vært en stor kilde til inspirasjon for mange komponister. Den nordiske lyden er også sterkt inspirert av naturen, stemninger og forandringer. Alt fra nordlyset, til dype fjell og daler, til vann. Den lyriske, melankolske og ofte forsiktige optimismen er et nøkkelord for å forklare hva som ofte kan karaktiseres som nordisk. Det rene, enkle og ofte billedlige. Samtidig som det er et mot og en pågangskraft som kan hentes fra nordiske eventyr, ofte med en lun humor. Mange av disse egenskapene vises også i andre sjangre enn musikk. Hvordan har historien formet oss og hva kan vi lære av hvem i er i dag?
Eldbjørg Hemsing med podkast om det mystiske nordiske: – Jeg ser på podkaster som lydbøker som har tatt et steg videre
Det såkalte nordiske uttrykket har blitt en sjanger både innenfor litteratur og musikk, men hva er egentlig typisk nordisk? I podkasten «The Nordics Unveiled» dykker Eldbjørg Hemsing ned i det nordiske kulturhavet med spennende gjester som kartlesere.
Det nordiske uttrykket beskrives ofte som lyrisk og melankolsk uten de helt store faktene. Dramatikken i naturen, nordlyset, den mørke vinteren er så langt unna blinkende neonlys man kan komme. Sagt på annen måte: Det er stor forskjell på interiøret i en Volvo og en Kia, og musikken til den finske samtidskomponisten Kaija Saariaho kan helt sikkert beskrives som litt av hvert, men neppe svulstig og pompøs.
Hjemme er best
Med 95 prosent av spillejobbene satt på vent, fant Eldbjørg Hemsing ut at hun måtte ha noe finne på mens hun gikk og klødde i fingrene hjemme i leiligheten i Oslo. For ja, verdensmusikeren har flyttet fra Berlin og bosatt seg en trivelig biltur unna hjembygda Aurdal, et trekk hun er glad hun gjorde for ett år siden.
Eldbjørg Hemsing receives the 1707 ‘Rivaz, Baron Gutmann’ while Janine Jansen has the 1715 ‘Rode, Duke of Cambridge’
Two of the world’s leading female violinists have been granted the use of ‘golden period’ Stradivari violins. Norwegian soloist Eldbjørg Hemsing is now playing the 1707 ‘Rivaz, Baron Gutmann’ Stradivari violin, owned by the Dextra Musica foundation. Its most recent player, Janine Jansen, has been gifted the use of the 1715 ‘Rode, Duke of Cambridge’ Stradivari, courtesy of a European benefactor. ‘I want to thank Dextra Musica for having given me the fantastic opportunity to play on one of the finest Stradivari violins for these past years,’ said Jansen. ‘The velvety beauty, depth and richness of sound have been a true inspiration for me. I wish Eldbjørg Hemsing and the “Rivaz, Baron Gutmann” a wonderful journey together.’
‘Being part of the Dextra Musica family for over twelve years, I am thrilled and grateful to continue expanding this fruitful collaboration,’ said Hemsing. ‘Having the support of a foundation loaning me this incredible violin, one of the world’s finest, is truly a honour as well as a huge artistic inspiration. I am very much looking forward to continue building the artistic legacy of the instrument as well as inspiring audiences with its sound.’
Nordland Music Festival Chamber Music – Academy Program
SPIRE is a mentoring program presented within Norland Music Festival, specifically designed for talents within the classical music sphere that facilitates self-development in several areas. SPIRE´s focus is to support musicians in development of artistry both on their instrument as well as in the process of developing their career. Participating musicians will be working in close collaboration with Eldbjørg Hemsing, who is taking the role of Artistic director and Mentor of the program.
Nordland Music Festival is one of the oldest music festivals in the Northern Arctic part of Norway, celebrating 40th anniversary in 2020. Apart from presenting some of the biggest artistic names during a 2 week festival program, SPIRE is an edition to the festival core that aims to look at stimulating and building a much stronger young artistic base in the city of Bodø and in the Arctic region.
“ Most important for young musicians is to know that there is no set path someone should follow they should be evolving curiosity and stimulate their experimentation to not become only musicians, but also thinkers, leaders, entrepreneurs and agents of change. We have the responsibility of shaping a more future oriented generations of classical musicians, where artists are the driving force towards a society with culture at its core, not afraid of experiments and possible failures.”
Oslo Anne-Sophie Mutters Erbin: Eldbjørg Hemsing aus Norwegen gilt als herausragendes Musikertalent. Auf ihrer neuen CD spielt sie die Sonaten ihres berühmten Landsmanns Edvard Grieg.
Die Welt schaut seit einigen Jahren gern nach Norwegen, weil das eher unscheinbar an die Westkünste Skandinaviens geflanschte, tief zerfurchte Land der Welt einen neuen König geschenkt hat. Es ist der Schachspieler Magnus Carlsen. Der gilt als Brüterich und unter Fans der Sportart als Boa, als Würgeschlange. Wer ihm gegenüber sitzt, erlebt bei mangelhafter Gegenwehr seine langsame Erdrosselung.
Eldbjørg Hemsing ist Norwegens neue Königin, ihr sieht man gern zu, sie hat nichts Kriegerisches, sie ist eine aparte junge Frau mit langen blonden Haaren, sie könnte in Oslo die Rechtsabteilung des Umweltministeriums leiten oder einen Bootsverleih in Trondheim. Doch sie ist Musikerin, sie spielt Geige, und weil das halt nicht so ganz ungewöhnlich ist, hat sie irgendein Troll aus der Marketing-Abteilung ihrer Plattenfirma BIS fürs Cover ihrer neuen CD in eine steinige norwegische Flechtenlandschaft gestellt. Zuvor hat er ihr einen Feen-Overall verpasst und ihr die Geige in die Hand gedrückt. Auf wen soll sie da warten? Auf Peer Gynt etwa, den Hallodri der nordischen Mythologie? Eher wartet sie auf Edvard Grieg, der irgendwie von den Toten aufersteht, Hemsing ernst in die Augen schaut und ergriffen sagt: „Von dir, mein Kind, habe ich mein ganzes Leben lang geträumt!“
In ihrer Heimat hat sie ein eigenes Festival
Kammermusik Gemeinsam mit ihrer Schwester Ragnhild, die ebenfalls Geigerin ist, hat Eldbjørg Hemsing im norwegischen Dorf Aurdal ein Kammermusik-Festival gegründet.
Vermutlich ist sie Anne-Sophie Mutters ideale Erbin. Ihr Geigenspiel ist brennend ausdrucksvoll, wie eine Reizstrombehandlung, wie eine Nervenstimulation, nicht schmerzhaft, aber intensiv. Dieser Intensität gibt man sich umso lieber hin, als es sich bei der neuen CD um die drei Violinsonaten von Grieg handelt, hochromantische, virtuos ausladende, etwas versponnene Musik. Über die zweite Sonate geht die Legende, dass nach ihrer Premiere Griegs Kompositionslehrer, der Däne Niels Wilhelm Gade, tadelnd gesagt haben soll: „Nein, Grieg, die nächste Sonate müssen sie nicht so norwegisch machen!“ Darauf soll Grieg geantwortet haben: „Im Gegenteil, Herr Professor, die nächste wird noch schlimmer.“ Sie wurde aber kein Elfentanz, kein Gnomenreigen, sondern ein durch und durch europäisches Meisterwerk.
Das hört man aus Hemsings Interpretation herrlich heraus. Sie zeigt uns Grieg als weltgewandten Meister, der mit formalen Einfällen nicht geizt, gern durchs Unterholz der Harmonik streift, aber vor allem ein rassiger Melodiker ist. Hemsing spielt das wie mit glühenden Fäden, die den Himmel über der Musik zart erleuchten. Da muss Strom im Spiel sein! Gleichwohl zeigt sie nur selten ihre Muskeln, ihr Vibrato ist eher diskret; sie zersägt die Saiten nicht, sie vertraut darauf, dass der Ton ihrer Guadagnini-Geige auch ohne großen Bogendruck die Luft in Schwingung versetzt und nur im äußersten Fall durchschneidet. Es ist wie der Klang der Stille.
Das Auffallende ihres Spiels ist jedes Fehlen von Kalkül. Keine Sekunde verbreitet sie das Phänomen von Geiger-Raffinesse, von retortenhafter Emotion. Im Moment des Spielens scheint sie den allerersten Zugriff aufs Stück zu wagen, immer steckt ein Funke Risiko in ihrem Musizieren, eine latente Gefährdung. Doch an Absturz kein Gedanke, denn Hemsing besitzt ein gesundes Urvertrauen. Diesmal gilt es dem fabelhaften Pianisten Simon Trpceski, der kein Norweger, sondern ein Mazedonier ist. Aber er fühlt sich in der kühlen Luft den Nordens wohl. Er kennt den Weg. Beide atmen die geistige Freiheit, die ein gutes Duo immer auch besitzt: Einer kann sich auf den anderen in jeder Sekunde hundertprozentig verlassen.
Die Grieg-Platte ist ein neuerliches Dokument, das Eldbjørg Hemsing, 1990 im norwegischen Aurdal geboren, als Geigerin der Zukunft zeigt. Sie ist keine Spur kontaktscheu, sie hat das Violinkonzert des chinesischen Komponisten Tan Dun erstmals für die Platte eingespielt. Sie hat das wunderbar schmachtende Violinkonzert ihres Landsmanns Hjalmar Borgstrøm von jeder Schwerblütigkeit befreit und nebenbei das Schostakowitsch-Konzert als erfrischende Konzeptkunst umgedeutet (als Platte ebenfalls bei BIS).
Die Natürlichkeit ihres Spiels hat zweifellos mit ihrer Herkunft zu tun. Sie stammt aus einem winzigen Dorf nördlich von Oslo, fast abgeschieden von der Welt. Bereits mit zwei Jahren hatte sie erstmals eine Geige in der Hand, mit sechs gab sie ihr erstes öffentliches Konzert, mit elf verpflichtete sie das Symphonieorchester in Bergen für einen Soloauftritt. Fürs Studium ging sie nach Wien. Jetzt steht ihr die Welt offen. Doch ohne Norwegen geht es nicht. Ein hübsches Promo-Video zeigt sie als flinke Langläuferin auf Skiern, die in dichtem Schneetreiben mal eben Besorgungen macht.
Demnächst, in besseren Zeiten, besuchen wir dann auch mal ihr kleines feines Kammermusikfestival in Aurdal. Dort knarren die Stühle, wenn die Zuhörer zu unruhig sind. Passiert aber nicht, weil Eldbjørg Hemsing, die neue Königin der Geige, wirklich jeden in ihren Bann zieht.
For pieces that are not often heard in the concert hall, the violin sonatas of Edvard Grieg are well-served on disc. The third sonata is the best-known of the three; we have recordings from Fritz Kreisler, Toscha Seidel, Jascha Heifetz, and Josef Suk, among others. The abandonment of the sonatas by modern violinists is mystifying, particularly when hearing such persuasive performances as found on this disc.
The first, composed in 1865, is the least-played of the sonatas. This sonata is a more assured composition than the piano sonata (op. 7) written in the same year; harmonically, it is much more interesting, and the overall structure is less stilted. The op. 8 sonata seems to draw more inspiration from folk music than the other violin sonatas; Hemsing successfully imitates the twang of the Hardanger fiddle in the second movement, while Trpčeski doesn’t shy away from the rustic dissonances that Grieg would fully embrace in the much later Norwegian Folk Dances (Slåtter), op. 72. This sonata is a delightful discovery.
Hemsing and Trpčeski have nothing to fear from their storied competition in the other sonatas. The duo combines a sophisticated color palette with a wide dynamic range, and the results are stunning. Hemsing draws forth a husky, whispered timbre in more intimate moments, but is capable of exploding with the sort of concentrated tone that would do Heifetz proud. She is also not afraid to use a bit of old-school portamento; it is a wonderful effect, particularly in the climaxes of the third sonata. If only more modern violinists could be convinced to play with this sort of swing and joie de vivre! Trpčeski digs into the meaty chordal batteries with gusto, but also provides impressive clarity in softer, speedier fingerwork.
The final piece on the album is Hemsing’s own composition, a short set of variations for solo violin on a “folk tune from Valdres.” Piano buffs will recognize the tune used as the basis for Grieg’s “Ballade in the form of variations,” op. 24. The piece is conservative, and does not seem out of place alongside the sonatas.
In trying times, we have a responsibility to find joy wherever we can. Hemsing and Trpčeski provide that joy in spades with their vivacious, probing, and ultimately life-affirming performances.
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907) Violin Sonata no. 1 in F Major, op. 8 [22:58] Violin Sonata no. 2 in G major, op. 13 [20:27] Violin Sonata no. 3 in C Minor, op. 45 [23:48]
Eldbjørg HEMSING (b. 1990) Homecoming: Variations on a folk tune from Valdres [3:33] Eldbjørg Hemsing (violin) Simon Trpčeski (piano) rec. 2018/19, Sandesaal, Bremen, Germany; Aurdal Church, Norway BIS BIS2456SACD [72:30]
At the beginning of March London concerts started to be cancelled as the spread of coronavirus put paid to artists’ travels. By mid-month there would have been nowhere for them to play, as one after another the concert halls closed down. So we cast online and further afield, and instead of Wigmore Hall I sat in my study and listened to a short recital by violinist Eldbjørg Hemsing and pianist Sveinung Bjelland from Norway in what looked like a living room. And most entertaining it was too, once I’d spent five minutes mastering the necessary technology (not my strong point). There was one camera, one microphone, Hemsing gave charming introductions to each piece, and it all worked splendidly.
They opened with the Allegretto quasi Andantino second movement from Grieg’s F major Sonata op.8, plaintive and lively, and followed it with an affecting account of ‘Våren’ from his Two Elegiac Melodies op.34. Hemsing performed Ølstein Sommerfeldt’s Sonata Saxifraga, increasingly virtuosic and with many double-stops and left-hand pizzicatos, with verve and gentleness, after which a few people could be heard clapping – so she wasn’t playing to an empty room. After the ‘Méditation’ from Massenet’s Thaïs came a passionate account of the second movement of Grieg’s Third Sonata and finally a joyous performance of the opening movement of his second. I didn’t miss Wigmore Hall at all.
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.
Die Violinsonaten von Edvard Grieg stehen im Mittelpunkt der Sendung. Die drei Werke dokumentieren verschiedene Lebensphasen von Grieg, stehen für seine Studentenzeit in Leipzig, seine Eheschließung und nicht zuletzt für seine norwegische Heimat. Die Geigerin Eldbjørg Hemsing hat sie eingespielt. Sie spricht über die verschiedenen traditionellen Einflüsse. Den Halling-Tanz, bei dem die Männer mit akrobatischen Einlagen versuchen, die Frauen zu beeindrucken. Sie geht auf das wesentliche Instrument der norwegischen Volksmusik ein, die Hardangerfiedel, auf der unzählige Melodien gespielt wurden. Außerdem weiht sie die Hörer*Innen in das ein oder andere Märchen ein.
Eine echte Wiederentdeckung sind hingegen die Klaviersonaten des russischen Composer-Pianisten Samuil Feinberg. Der Zeitgenosse von Sergej Rachmaninow hat gerade in seinen frühen Jahren ebenfalls brachial virtuose Sonaten geschrieben, in denen sich immer wieder der harte Kontrast zu melancholisch elegischen Melodien findet. Der kanadische Pianist Marc-André Hamelin hat sechs dieser Sonaten von Feinberg bewältigt.
Eldbjørg Hemsings spenstige og kraftfulle spillestil får Griegs fiolinsonater til å fremstå mer duggfriske enn noensinne.
Edvard Griegs tre fiolinsonater tilhører standardrepertoaret for fiolinister, og er noe av det fineste norsk musikkhistorie har å by på.
Ved siden av de «Lyriske stykkene» for klaver er sonatene den eneste verkkategori hvor man kan følge Griegs kunstneriske utvikling, fra den unge idealist i København (hvor Grieg skrev den første, bare 22 år gammel), til den siste store sonaten i c-moll, komponert av en verdensberømt kunstner som nå hadde vendt tilbake til sine hjemtrakter.
Prinsessen fra Nord
Eldbjørg Hemsings internasjonale karriere skjøt for alvor fart for tre år siden da hun undertegnet kontrakt med det svenske plateselskapet BIS. Røttene i folkemusikken og nærheten til hjembygda Aurdal har hele tiden vært en del av Hemsings varemerke, og tendensen til mytologisering når et nytt høydepunkt på dette albumet.
Med et coverbilde som burde appellere i Game of Thrones-segmentet (Hva? Har Daenerys Targaryen begynt å spille fiolin?) skulle budskapet være tydelig: denne dama sitter ikke på kaffebar mellom slagene. Kraften i spillet kommer fra naturen selv, slik den har formet Valdres-folk gjennom uminnelige tider.
Det er imidlertid gode grunner til å plassere nettopp Griegs fiolinsonater i spennet mellom myte og virkelighet, fantasi og realitet. Lengselen mot «det andre stedet» er gjennomgående i disse tre verkene: Grieg komponerer den mest nasjonalromantiske av sonatene (nr. 2) i Kristiania, og den mest internasjonale (nr. 3) på Troldhaugen.
Slik befinner Grieg seg i spennet mellom det norske eventyret og den strenge «tyske» satsteknikken han lærte ved konservatoriet i Leipzig, en syntese som riktignok aldri blir helt sømløs i Griegs komposisjoner i det store formatet.
Det er når lyden strømmer ut av høyttalerne at det blir mer enn tydelig at Eldbjørg Hemsing er the real thing. Elementer fra folkemusikken (Hemsing er også en kløpper på hardingfele) er en integrert og naturlig del av hennes spillestil. Disse merkes i spensten i strøkene, de kvikksølvaktige ornamentene, den fleksible bruken av vibrato, den suverene rytmiske presisjonen i dobbeltstrøkene, og den usentimentale rett-på-sak-aktige innfallsvinkelen til Griegs duggfriske sonater.
Det er rett og slett en friskhet, vitalitet og nyanserikdom i spillet som jeg opplever som enormt tiltalende.
Pianist i toppklasse
Hemsings makker på albumet er Simon Trpčeski, opprinnelig fra Macedonia, og nå en av Europas mest etterspurte konsertpianister. Hans mer bohemaktige spillestil gjør det sannsynlig at han ikke var til stede da coverbildet ble tatt.
Trpčeski har lenge vært en av mine favoritter blant pianister i sin generasjon, og slår meg aller mest som en raffinert klangkunstner med et særegent blikk for detaljer. Hans behandling av klaverstemmen er simpelthen magisk – jeg kan ikke huske å ha hørt bedre pianospill i disse sonatene siden Maria João Pires tidlig på 90-tallet.
Trpčeskis musikalske personlighet er i utgangspunktet noe mindre spenstig og utadvendt enn Hemsings, og han bidrar derfor til å farge Griegs musikk i litt mer melankolsk retning. Dette understrekes av den utmerkede lydproduksjonen (sonatene er spilt inn i et radiostudio i Bremen, av alle steder), hvor den runde og mørke klaverklangen utgjør en fin og naturlig kontrast til Hemsings funklende og overtonerike buestrøk.
Hjem til slutt
Som et naturlig punktum avsluttes albumet med «Homecoming», som er Hemsings egne variasjoner for solofiolin over temaet Grieg bruker i sin Ballade i g-moll, Op. 24. Grieg fikk denne melodien (via Ludvig Mathias Lindeman) fra Hemsings tipptippoldefar, Anders Nielsen Pelesteinbakken. Som seg hør og bør er denne flotte fiolinminiatyren spilt inn i Aurdals korskirke fra 1737.
Med klare referanser til 1800-tallsvirtuoser som Paganini skaper Hemsing sin egne forbindelse mellom hjemtraktene og den romantiske fiolintradisjonen. Slik kommer Grieg omsider til Aurdal, etter selv å ha brakt bygda ut til kontinentets fornemme salonger og konsertsaler gjennom sitt berømte klaverstykke.
Det ble ingen Spellemann på Eldbjørg Hemsing forrige helg. Hun var nominert for sitt forrige album med musikk av den kinesiske stjernekomponisten Tan Dun. Det sier noe om nivået på vinneren – Oslo filhamornien og dirigent Mariss Jansons innspilling av Gustav Mahlers Symfoni nr. 3 – for på sin siste plate står Hemsing frem som nettopp en fenomenal spellemann.
Die drei Violinsonaten von Grieg sind schon eine Welt für sich. Einerseits hochgradig ausgefeilt komponierte Musik, machen sie doch immer wieder Platz für volksmusikalische Rhythmen und Melodien. Diese beiden Schichten, die auch generell ein Charakteristikum der Werke dieses Komponisten sind, lässt manche Hörer an der Werthaltigkeit dieses Œuvre zweifeln. Mit seinen drei Violinsonaten wollte Grieg der Welt zeigen, dass er auch große Formate beherrschte. Das ist ihm zumindest nach ungeteilter Meinung des Publikums gelungen.
Vielleicht geht Eldbjorg Hemsing deshalb in ihren Interpretationen den Weg, der die ausgereifte Seite der Kompositionen betont und dem Liedhaften und Tänzerischen nur den unbedingt nötigen Raum lässt. Trotzdem gelingt es ihr, Schwung und Temperament zu halten und den Schwung nicht untergehen zu lassen. Insgesamt gleicht sie mit ihrer instrumentalen Intensität derjenigen ihres Begleiters am Piano.
Ihr Begleiter aus Mazedonien, Simon Trpceski, verleiht seinem Klavierbeitrag eine kraftvoll klar strukturierte Seite, die der Partnerstimme aber trotzdem auch die Luft und mitunter die Ruhe lässt, sich ebenfalls zu entfalten. Zusammen zeigen sie diese Musik, in der Freude, Überschwang und auch Selbstbewusstsein verpackt sind, mit genau dem interpretatorischen Ansatz, der diese Merkmale betont.
Quasi als Zugabe trägt Hemsing als Solistin ihr selbst komponiertes Werk Homecoming vor, bei dem sie Variationen über ein ruhiges Volkslied aus Valdres, einer Region im südlichen Binnenland Norwegens mit Impetus gestaltet.
The Grieg violin sonatasare very special. They are highly sophisticated, yet always leave room for implements from the folk music. With these sonatas, Grieg wanted to show the world that he also mastered large formats. Perhaps this is why Eldbjørg Hemsing’s interpretations emphasize the mature side of the compositions and leave only the absolutely necessary space for song and dance. Nevertheless, she manages to keep up the momentum and temperament. Her instrumental intensity resembles that of her companion on the piano, Simon Trpceski, whose playing is powerful and clearly structured, yet allows the violin to run smoothly. Hemsing, as a soloist, plays her own work Homecoming, in which she creates variations on a quiet folk song from Valdres, a region in Norway.
Edvard Grieg: Sonaten für Violine und Klavier, Eldbjorg Hemsing: Homecoming; Eldbjorg Hemsing, Violine, Simon Trpceski, Klavier; 1 SACD BIS 2456; Aufnahmen 12/2018, 03+09/2019, Veröffentlichung 03/2020 (72’30)
Le hasard des parutions discographiques met en présence deux nouveautés qui proposent chacune une intégrale des trois sonates pour violon et piano de Grieg, dont l’une des particularités est d’avoir été créées toutes les trois par le compositeur au piano. La première, en fa majeur, a été composée au cours de l’été 1865 lors d’un séjour de Grieg au Danemark, dans la station balnéaire de Rungsted, proche de Copenhague. La première eut lieu dès le mois de novembre, avec un violoniste suédois, Anders Petterson. Un autre compositeur, Johann Svendsen, lui aussi violoniste, la fit connaître en France en 1870, avec au piano non moins que Camille Saint-Saëns. Le même Svendsen est le dédicataire de la Sonate n° 2 de 1867, créée à l’automne avec le violoniste Gudbrand Böhn. Près de vingt ans plus tard, Grieg écrivait la Sonate n° 3, à l’automne de 1886. La première audition eut lieu à la fin de l’année suivante, à Leipzig, avec le violoniste russe Adolph Brodsky. D’essence romantique, ces trois partitions, qui connaissent toujours le succès auprès du public en raison de leurs qualités mélodiques, sont prisées par les interprètes. Grieg lui-même éprouvait à leur égard une prédilection, estimant, dans une lettre de 1900 reproduite partiellement dans la belle notice signée par Arnulf Christian Mattes, que « la première est naïve, la seconde d’inspiration nationale et la troisième ouvre de nouveaux horizons ». Certains y ont vu des jalons correspondant à la progression de la vie : « du printemps (jeune et curieux), à l’été (mature et sûr de lui) puis à l’automne (mélancolique et réfléchi ».
Comment les interprètes du jour abordent-ils ces sonates ? Le premier duo joue la carte du grand romantisme dans une conception globale passionnée et engagée, superbement construite et dans un climat où l’expressivité se donne un généreux libre cours. Au violon, la Norvégienne Eldbjørg Hemsing, née en 1990. Elle a fait ses débuts avec orchestre dès ses onze ans, a remporté des concours internationaux, s’est perfectionnée à Vienne. Avec le compositeur et chef chinois Tan Dun, né en 1957, elle a beaucoup collaboré en Europe et en Asie, jusqu’à la gravure d’un CD consacré à plusieurs de ses œuvres. Mais elle a aussi enregistré Shostakovitch, Dvorak, Suk ou son compatriote Hjalmar Borgström (1864-1925). Son partenaire, le pianiste macédonien Simon Trpčeski, né en 1979, s’est formé à Skopje et est lui aussi titulaire de récompenses internationales. Il a enregistré plusieurs CD, dont un Rachmaninov, fort bien accueilli. Ceux qui ont eu l’occasion de l’entendre et de le voir sur scène savent que cet artiste de grand talent a aussi un côté que certains définissent comme « exhibitionniste », mais que nous qualifierons plutôt de démonstratif et de charismatique (la notice utilise d’ailleurs ce dernier mot pour le définir). Ce côté extérieur est ici gommé par un sens de l’écoute particulièrement aigu de sa partenaire. L’osmose est si adéquate dans chacune des sonates qu’elle entraîne chez l’auditeur une réelle participation émotionnelle aux aspects mosaïques de la première sonate, avec notamment, dans le second mouvement, cet écho imitatif d’un violon norvégien typique, le Hardanger, dont les caractéristiques structurelles permettent d’allonger le son. La deuxième sonate, qui date de l’époque où Grieg était investi dans le projet de mise en évidence de la culture nationale, se révèle pleine de couleurs sombres, avec des thèmes élégiaques ou robustes que les deux complices soulignent avec fraîcheur et enthousiasme. Dans la troisième sonate, dont Arthur Grumiaux a laissé une référence historique avec Gyorgi Sebök chez Philips, on sent la pleine maturité du compositeur et son art de faire chanter le violon qu’Eldbjørg Hemsing fait vibrer dans un mélange de délicatesse, d’allure dansée et de passion fougueuse. L’intensité rythmique de l’Allegro animato final est irrésistible, scandé par un piano aux accents à la fois tragiques et fusionnels. En complément, la violoniste, qui joue sur un Guadagnini de 1754 à la sonorité frémissante, interprète une pièce qu’elle a composée elle-même en 2019 sur des thèmes de sa cité natale, Valdres, située dans la région de l’Oppland, entre Oslo et Bergen. Ce morceau d’un peu plus de trois minutes met l’accent avec ferveur sur l’émotion éprouvée lors du retour au foyer. Ces sonates ont été enregistrées en décembre 2018 et mars 2019, la page d’Hemsing en septembre 2019. La qualité sonore en est remarquable.
Le second CD, paru chez Orchid Classics, réunit la jeune violoniste américaine Elena Urioste au pianiste anglais Tom Poster. Elena Urioste s’est formée au Curtis Institute et à la Juilliard School et possède plusieurs cordes à son arc : grande amoureuse de la nature, elle est aussi écrivaine. Tom Poster, né en 1981, a étudié à Cambridge et a enregistré des disques pour Chandos ou EMI (un beau programme Thomas Adès). Ensemble, ces deux artistes ont publié chez BIS un disque intitulé « Estrellita », qui regroupe des arrangements de pièces de Gluck, Auer, Kreisler, Zimbalist, Elgar… effectués par Poster. Leur version des sonates de Grieg diffère de celle de Hemsing/Trpceski par une atmosphère plus centrée sur l’intimisme et l’intériorité, sans négliger, surtout dans le chef de Poster qui est un chambriste de qualité, les élans requis avec lesquels il entraîne souvent sa partenaire. Celle-ci, qui joue sur un Gagliano de 1706, apparaît souvent comme plus en retrait que Hemsing. Ici, la flamboyance est bridée, l’accent est mis sur une pudeur résiduelle qui se contrôle. Des différences de tempo, parfois contradictoires, soulignent la différence de visions, surtout dans les deux premiers mouvements des deux premières sonates. Hemsing empoigne la partition, alors qu’Urioste la peaufine de manière plus dolente. La Sonate n° 3 se perd souvent dans une recherche du beau son, pas toujours aboutie, et surtout sans l’investissement émotionnel suffisant. La prise de son, effectuée en septembre 2017 à Monmouth, au Pays de Galles, est moins valorisante que chez BIS : elle confère parfois au dialogue des deux partenaires une sensation floue, mais celle-ci réside aussi dans leur approche moins creusée. Elle se prolonge dans les deux compléments choisis, des arrangements alanguis et cotonneux. L’intitulé de ce CD Orchid Classics est adressé « Au Printemps ». Il aurait mieux convenu au CD BIS.
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907) : Sonates pour violon et piano n°1 op. 8, n°2 op. 13 et n° 3 op. 45 ; Dernier printemps, op. 33 n° 2, mélodie, arrangement pour violon et piano ; Au printemps, op. 43 n° 5, extrait des Pièces lyriques, arrangement pour violon et piano. Elena Urioste, violon ; Tom Poster, piano. 2020. Livret en anglais. 76.49. Orchid Classics ORC100126.
Following acclaimed recordings of concertos by Tan Dun and Josef Suk, the Norwegian violinist Eldbjørg Hemsing returns to her roots in this Grieg recital, joined by Simon Trpceski at the piano. Each of Edvard Grieg’s three violin sonatas marks a decisive phase in the composer’s artistic development. Closing the disc, Hemsing plays her own composition Homecoming. It’s a set of variations on a tune from the valley where she grew up, as well as a friendly nod to Grieg, who used the same tune almost 150 years earlier in his Ballade, Op. 24.
Junge Künstler, die in Rolando VillazónsARTE-Sendereihe „Stars von morgen“ ihren ersten großen TV-Auftritt hatten und die sich inzwischen in der internationalen Klassikszene einen Namen gemacht haben, spielen und singen in ihrem „Guten Stube“, im Kinderzimmer mit Krabbelbaby, vor Stapeln von Umzugskartons oder auch im indonesischen Hotelzimmer.
Louise Alder stammt aus einer Musikerfamilie. Als Kind tanzte sie und lernte Geige – glücklicherweise hat sie dann aber auf Sopran umgesattelt. 2017 war ein wichtiges Jahr in ihrer Karriere: Preise bei den International Opera Awards, bei BBC Cardiff Singer of the World – und der Auftritt bei den „Stars von morgen“. Die Kritiker rund um den Globus schwärmen vom „leuchtendsten Sopran der jüngeren Generation“, von der „geborenen Darstellerin“ und ihrer Stimme von „strahlender Schönheit“.
Als Sohn eines Fagottisten ist Riccardo Terzomit dem Instrument groß geworden. Heute etabliert er das Fagott erfolgreich als Soloinstrument auf Konzertbühnen wie den Salzburger Festspielen. 2017 konnte sich Riccardo Terzo freuen: Er gewann den wichtigsten Fagottwettbewerb der Welt in den USA. Seitdem stehen Studierende und Profis Schlange für seine Meisterklassen. 2017 freute sich das Gewandhausorchester Leipzig: Sie konnten Riccardo Terzo als Ersten Solofagottisten gewinnen.
Ihre Heimat Norwegen und deren Natur prägen ihr Geigenspiel, das oft als unprätentiös, kraftvoll und fassbar beschrieben wird. Eldbjørg Hemsing hatte ihren ersten öffentlichen Auftritt mit 6 Jahren – mit 22 wurde sie international bekannt, als sie bei der Verleihung des Friedensnobelpreises spielte. Heute gibt sie weltweit Konzerte und nimmt dabei gerne Musik norwegischer Komponisten in ihr Programm auf.
Der amerikanische Countertenor Ray Chenez fasziniert mit seiner Stimme: einer seltenen Kombination aus Schönheit, Kraft und Flexibilität. Opera Britannia bescheinigt ihm eine “dramatische Sopranstimme, die vor Potenzial strotzt”. Er fesselt sein Publikum mit seinem enormen Stimmumfang, der ihn sowohl männliche als auch weibliche Rollen verkörpern lässt. Ray wird in einer der noch nicht ausgestrahlten Folgen von „Stars von morgen – On Tour“ von Rolando Villazón vorgestellt werden.
Marie Hauzel spielt seit ihrem vierten Lebensjahr Klavier. Bereits mit 15 Jahren wurde sie als jüngste Bachelor-Studentin an der Universität Mozarteum Salzburg aufgenommen. Neben vielen Preisen bei nationalen und internationalen Wettbewerben hatte sie 2014 als 14-Jährige den 1. Preis im Bundeswettbewerb „Jugend musiziert“ gewonnen. Konzerte führten sie schon in jungen Jahren bis nach China und die USA. Bei Rolando Villazón durfte die damals 17-Jährige 2017 ihr Riesentalent beweisen.
Klarinettist Raphael Sévère ist die lebendige Definition des Begriffs „Wunderkind“: Mit acht Jahren fing er am Konservatorium von Nantes mit der Klarinette an – Geige, Cello und Klavier spielte er auch schon. Nach ersten internationalen Auftritten und Preisen schließt er mit 19 Jahren am Pariser Konservatorium sein Studium ab. 2016 schuf Raphael Sévère mit „Obscurs“ sein erstes Stück als Komponist. Gerade frisch entstanden ist eine Auftragskomposition für das Orchestre de Bretagne: ein Konzert für Klarinette und Orchester.
Andrei Bondarenko sang schon mit 20 Jahren als Solist an der Mariinsky Akademie in St. Petersburg. 2011 gewann er den „Song Prize“ beim Cardiff Singer of the World, zwei Jahre später war er zu Gast bei Rolando Villazón. Seitdem ist der ukrainische Bariton auf allen großen Bühnen der Welt zu Hause, für die laufende Spielzeit stehen die Opernhäuser von Wien und Luzern ebenso auf dem Plan wie sein Debüt am Royal Opera House London.
„Der Klang des Violoncellos zieht mich magisch an. Da ist ein Lodern in mir, da brennt ein Feuer.“ Mit dieser Begeisterung steckte Valentin Radutiu 2017 auch sein Publikum bei den „Stars von morgen“ an und bestätigte, was die „Süddeutsche Zeitung“ schon 2013 über ihn schrieb: „Eine der großen Cellobegabungen unserer Zeit“. Seit 2019 ist Valentin Radutiu Erster Solocellist beim Deutschen Symphonie-Orchester Berlin.
Als Katharina Konradi bei den „Stars von morgen“ auftrat, wechselte sie gerade vom Staatstheater Wiesbaden an die Hamburgische Staatsoper, wo sie mittlerweile ein Publikumsliebling ist. Im Sommer 2019 gab sie zudem ihr Debüt bei den Bayreuther Festspielen. Eine steile Karriere der jungen, aus Kirgisistan stammenden Sopranistin, die neben der Oper auch leidenschaftlich gerne Lieder singt.
Die niederländischen PianistenLucas und Arthur Jussen galten als Wunderkinder, dabei wollten sie nur eins: gemeinsam Musik machen. Jeder der beiden Brüder für sich spielt schon brillant, aber zusammen bilden sie eine perfekte Einheit an den Tasten. Dabei spielt es keine Rolle, ob sie vor Königin Beatrix oder in den eigenen vier Wänden spielen. Sie sind Weltklasse und repräsentieren gleichzeitig die junge, unkomplizierte Musikergeneration.
„First Baroque Boygroup“ oder „Barock-Band“ – mit solchen Attributen werden die jungen Musiker von 4 Times Baroque gerne versehen. Und tatsächlich hat die sogenannte „Alte Musik“ bei ihnen richtig „Drive“, klingt frisch, frech und lebendig. Dafür gab es neben vielen anderen Auszeichnungen 2018 auch einen OPUS KLASSIK. In ihrem Video für „Stars von morgen@home“ treten sie wegen der aktuellen Lage in kleinerer Besetzung auf, dafür mit der Sopranistin Sibylla Elsing.
Die Pianistin Claire Huangci gewann 2011 als jüngste Teilnehmerin den 2. Preis beim Internationalen ARD Musikwettbewerb, vier Jahre später hatte sie ihren Auftritt bei „Stars von morgen“. Für ihr Video hat sie ein Stück ausgesucht, das sie für die aktuelle Situation besonders passend fand, den letzten Satz von Liszts Klavierbearbeitung der „Pastorale“: „Hirtengesang. Frohe und dankbare Gefühle nach dem Sturm“.
Bach’s Violin Concerto in E in Building a Library with Mark Lowther and Andrew McGregor
New classical releases, including Harriet Smith on chamber music, and in Building a Library, Mark Lowther recommends a recording of Bach’s Violin Concerto in E, BWV1042. Program presented by Andrew McGregor.
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.
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 […] makes a good start with this powerful performance. A gorgeous, open-hearted piece, full of flowing lyricism, to which she brings warm and beautiful playing… Hemsing weaves steadily and unfussily, but with increasing emotional intensity. The finale scuttles along brilliantly.”
The Norwegian composer Hjalmar Borgström was famous in his day but quickly fell into obscurity, his music bedded in the Germanic 19th century and considered old-fashioned and ‘not Norwegian enough’ at the beginning of the 20th. His compatriot Eldbjørg Hemsing wants to bring him back to notice, and makes a good start with this powerful performance of his 1914 Violin Concerto.
It is a gorgeous, open-hearted piece, full of flowing lyricism, to which she brings warm and beautiful playing. Her phrasing is supple and nuanced, flecked with neat little touches of vibrato and variations of dynamic. The central Adagio is far-ranging, moving from musing opening to a jaunty central section, and on to something more torridly passionate before leading straight into the dancing finale. Hemsing deftly handles all the transitions.
It is a bit of a gear-change from Borgström to austere Shostakovich (Bruch would have worked nicely). Hemsing weaves steadily and unfussily, but with increasing emotional intensity, to the climactic double-stops of the first movement. In the Scherzo she plays with an edge of violence, biting and snapping. The orchestra matches her vivid playing, but the recording sets it in the background, in a resonant acoustic. She is as fine in the third movement as the first in progressively ratcheting up the tension before easing down into the cadenza, which in its turn grows steadily to a searing climax. The finale scuttles along brilliantly.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.”
“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
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