Grieg: 3 Violin Sonatas - Hemsing, Trpčeski
Classical - Chamber
Grieg: 3 Violin Sonatas
Hemsing: Homecoming - Variations on a folk tune from Valdres
Eldbjørg Hemsing, violin
Simon Trpčeski, piano
Following acclaimed recordings of concertos by Dvořák and Shostakovich, by Tan Dun and Josef Suk, the Norwegian violinist Eldbjorg Hemsing returns to her roots in this Grieg recital, joined by Simon Trpčeski at the piano. Each of Edvard Grieg’s violin sonatas marks a decisive phase in the composer’s artistic development. He completed the F major Sonata at the age of 22, while still trying to break free from the heady influences he had received during his training at the Leipzig conservatory. The work still bears the stamp of German romanticism, but it also includes references to Norwegian folk dances and Hardanger fiddle techniques, features that were perceived as ‘a breath of fresh air’ when the work was premiered.
Two years later, in 1867, Grieg had become deeply involved in the project of constructing a national culture, as part of the movement for an independent Norway. In his Sonata No. 2, he exploited national characteristics far more consistently than before and especially his Norwegian audience reacted with great enthusiasm. Grieg’s final ‘crime for the violin’, as he described it, was the Violin Sonata in C minor, composed 20 years after Sonata No. 2 and the last piece of chamber music that he completed. He was now an internationally respected composer, pianist and conductor and the sonata reflects this new stage in his life, which Grieg himself described as having a ‘wider horizon’. Closing this disc, Eldbjorg Hemsing plays her own composition Homecoming. It is 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 ago in his large-scale Ballade Op. 24.
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Review by Adrian Quanjer - March 2, 2020
Finally, there they are. All three of them. And in high-BIS-quality-resolution. One may wonder why it took so long. Grieg’s violin sonatas are as good as any and played here in a reading that fully warrants anyone’s highest expectation.
Indeed, BIS has done well to entrust the interpretation of these three sonatas to this young and blossoming Norwegian violinist, Eldbjørg Hemsing, whose reputation needs no further elucidation. Together with her partner, Simon Trpčeski, from North Macedonia at the piano, she delivers close to 70 minutes of sheer delight, followed by a short ‘encore’ of her own making and entitled Homecoming. Eldbjørg notes: “.. my very first short piece for solo violin … as a celebration of the musical heritage of my (Norwegian) family and my valley.”
As explained in the liner notes, all three sonatas mark a decisive point in Grieg’s musical development. The first Sonata was composed with a clear reference to his studies in Leipzig, Germany. It is full of romantic exuberance of a 22-year-old youth whose expectations for the future seemed to reach for no less than the sky. Hemsing follows suit as if opening a fine bottle of German Sekt or Sparkling Wine. The notes ‘bubble’ unreservedly from her capable fingers. For her and her partner, ‘Con Brio’ (Movement 1) and ‘Molto Vivace’ (movement 3) mean what it says. For me, it merits one word: ‘Brilliant’.
The second Sonata draws on Norwegian folk music in a way only Grieg could have done and is played here in a way that only Hemsing, with her profound ancestral roots in Norway, can do best. That is, reflecting moments of sadness in mist-haunted gloam and periods of merriment when dancing under the late summer sun. As a matter of fact, the final movement always makes me ‘feel good’, and even more so in Hemsing’s reading. It’s the perfect antidote against rain for weeks on end.
With his mature, third Sonata Grieg stops creating chamber music (with the exception of an unfinished string quartet written in 1891). Though still based on Norwegian folk melodies, he preferred to call it: "the one with the broader horizon." Today it is his most popular Sonata, often recorded in combination with other popular one-offs (Franck, Sibelius and the like). Compared to other recordings (like for instance: Grieg, Gliere - Galoustov/Gernay) Hemsing is to be preferred. She has a better grasp of Grieg and, more in particular, Norwegian country life.
In conclusion: with all three sonatas ‘under one roof’, expertly played with great support from the piano, this disc is by far the one to go for.
Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France.
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