The Consulate General of Norway in Shanghai held a reception Tuesday celebrating an upcoming collaboration between Norwegian violinist Eldbjørg Hemsing and Chinese composer Tan Dun.
Hemsing has been a household name in her native country since childhood and made her solo debut with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra at the age of 11. Together with Tan, she has collaborated on numerous projects in both Europe and Asia. In September, Hemsing will be premiering Tan’s new violin composition “Two Rhapsodies” with the Oslo Philharmonic at a performance during the Ultima Festival.
Growing up in a musical household with her mother, also a violinist, Hemsing started playing violin at the age of five. “I discovered very soon that I love music so much. It really speaks so much to me,” Hemsing told the Global Times. “Violin to me is a way to express your own voice. It is also a way to be able to communicate through such a powerful tool that music is. Without words, without any other things. It’s such a universal language which I think is so emotional and so connected to how you feel as a person,” she added.
In March, Hemsing released her debut CD, featuring violin concertos by Hjalmar Borgström and Dmitri Shostakovich, recorded with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and Olari Elis. Speaking about her new album, she said she is very intrigued by its Norwegian characteristic. “You can picture the mountain, the fields and the nature. I think it’s a very rich Norwegian history behind it,” Hemsing said.
Everything in your ear
The collaboration between Chinese master composer Tan and Norwegian violinist Hemsing started in 2010 during the World Expo in Shanghai, when Hemsing premiered Tan’s “Love Concerto” together with the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra.
Over the past eight years, Hemsing has also premiered “The Hero Concerto,” “Triple Resurrection Concerto” and most recently “The Fire Ritual Violin Concerto” with the China National Traditional Orchestra at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Beijing.
“Every time we play together, something different happens. There is always something new, something exciting. I’m extremely grateful for being able to play with him,” Hemsing said. Through their collaboration, Hemsing has been inspired by Chinese folk music and traditional music, which she also included in her work.
The premier in NCPA was her very first time playing with Chinese traditional instruments in a concerto written by Tan for both the Western violin and traditional Chinese instruments. “It was my first time meeting such instruments. It was really fantastic. I learned very much from it, from the sound and how you do the phrasing to how you breathe. It was really interesting,” said Hemsing. She believes there are many similarities between Chinese traditional music and Norwegian folk music.
“It can be everything from certain rhythms or harmony and also how it’s being kept. In Norway, for example, with folk music you don’t write down anything. Everything is in your ear. I think it’s the same also here, that it is passed down from one generation to the next. It lives through how people play. This is exactly the same,” Hemsing said.