"The melodies are incredibly beautiful"

Violinst Eldbjørg Hemsing prepares for the world premiere of a Tan Dun violin concerto – for the fourth time.

Written by Fred-Olav Vatne

Violinist Eldbjørg Hemsing with composer and conductor Tan Dun on stage in Shanghai in 2010. (Photo: Patrick Wack)

Eldbjørg Hemsing met Tan Dun during the Expo 2010 in Shanghai, where she performed his violin concerto "The Love" together with the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra.

"From our first meeting we had a very good musical energy together," Eldbjørg Hemsing says on the phone from Berlin a few weeks before her concert with the Oslo Philharmonic and Tan Dun on 19th September.

Chinese Tan Dun is probably most famous for his soundtrack to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", but also is a recognized composer for orchestra and other ensembles. Eldbjørg Hemsing recalls her first meeting with him:

"Before the first rehearsal in Shanghai, he asked me to meet him in his studio. I was quite nervous, it's very special to play a piece for a composer standing right in front of you. Before I played, he asked me what my thoughts were about the new work, "The Love". The theme of the piece is love and its development through three parts of the music. I explained how I imagined the character in the music, and when I was finished, he said: That's exactly the way I think too. Then we were on track!"

Read more about the concert: Tradition and innovation

​ Eldbjørg Hemsing is soloist with the Oslo Philharmonic at the Tan Dun concert on 19th September. (Photo: Nikolaj Lund)

Common roots in traditional music 

Since 2010, Eldbjørg Hemsing and Tan Dun have had a close collaboration and they have met several times each year. Both artists have their roots in traditional music, and Hemsing believes it has been crucial for the collaboration:

"He is very keen on preserving his Chinese tradition, while still being a Western-oriented contemporary composer. I also have experience from combining roots in folk music with so-called classical training. I think the understanding of our countries' cultures is one of the things that helps us cooperate so well. For instance, I need some flexibility in my performances."

The two have also been performing a lot together, with Tan Dun as conductor:

"We've been touring a lot in China, and we've also been on tour in Europe. It's a great honor for me to collaborate so closely and get so much confidence from him. I look forward to performing together in Oslo, it's going to be fun. One of the things I enjoy about playing with him is that he gives me a lot of freedom. I get to shape things, and still he's available to tell me what he thinks about his own music."

"The melodies are incredibly beautiful"

In the concert with the Oslo Philharmonic, which is part of the Ultima Festival, Eldbjørg Hemsing will present a new version of the violin concerto "Fire Ritual − a music ritual for the victims of war". The first version is for Chinese instruments and western violin.

Eldbjørg Hemsing has, as usual, been very involved in the creative process and is excited about the result:

"Many of the melodies are incredibly beautiful and go straight to the heart, and at the same time it is very virtuosic music!"

The concert program also includes "Passacaglia: Secret of Wind and Birds" for cell phones and orchestra and the violin works "Rock the Violin in Rhapsody" and "A Dream Out of Peking Opera".

The Oslo Phlharmonic with Eldbjørg Hemsing and Tan Dun will also record the music for a future CD on BIS Records.