“Brilliant and sophisticated”, “skilful and convincing”, “remarkably lyrical”, “a combination of purity and overwhelming intensity” – this is how the international press describes the play of the world-famous Norwegian violinist. Eldbjørg Hemsing will be the guest of our orchestra in the Academy of Music on 24 April.

If you allow me a personal question: you have a lovely name, what does it mean?

Eldbjørg is an uncommon name which comes from the word “ailidaz” meaning fire and “burgz” meaning guardian and once you put these two together the whole means “guardian of fire”. The name has its roots in the ancient northern mythology.

It is no coincidence then that you will be the soloist of a concert promising mythical, spiritual experiences, on which the Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks’ Distant Light will also be performed. The artist described his work as “a song, coming from silence and floating away into silence, full of idealism and love, at times melancholy, at times dramatic.” How would you describe this piece with your own words as someone interested in contemporary music, performing new, acclaimed compositions from time to time?

For me, a vibrant voice provides the basis of the composition, something like a flickering source of light, while the whole piece is highly ritual in nature. It is full of emotions and we can also witness some kind of an explosion. It’s like looking at the stars in the distance, stars which shone in the sky millions of years ago, yet we are only able to see and hear them now. It is a really special piece, originally dedicated to Gidon Kremer.

Have you met the Latvian violinist as part of a course, a concert or some musical experience?

We have met in person many years ago. Kremer is a true source of musical inspiration, he is a legendary figure. I think it is important to play the pieces of composers who are relatively close to us, making it possible for them to give us a clue: why a piece was written the way it was, why does it sound the way it does. For me, this is extremely important. It is wonderful to know that the legacy of music can live on this way.

What do you think, how receptive the audience is to contemporary music?

It is of utmost importance to play music that is being composed today, simply because it reflects the voice of our times. I also consider it important to challenge the audience with different sound qualities, manifestations of the unknown, something less clear than what they would immediately like.

Openness is very important, because the most fantastic musical experiences tend to surprise us when we are open to them.

I share his view. Of course, my own experiences, memories and emotional states may differ from those of the audience, but there will always be something in the music that can still connect us. It is this connection that a musician needs to strengthen further, and this is why I consider it my responsibility to play contemporary works.

Is this your first time to play the piece?

Yes, and I am very happy for the opportunity to perform it with the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra in Budapest. I am sure it will be a pleasant discovery.

It is not the first time you perform with them. What are your impressions of the orchestra?

I had a wonderful time when I played with them for the first time in Kaposvár last August. They are great people who really put all their knowledge and energy into the production and are open to making music together.

However, you have not yet performed in the Academy of Music. When you are in an unfamiliar venue, how do you settle into the new space?

I am really looking forward to seeing this fascinating place! Playing in a foreign space is always very interesting, because the sound is different, the sensations are different and the way of communicating with the audience is different. I enjoy playing in new places, particularly, because they bring freshness and novelty around. Seeing how a number of wonderful musicians from all over the world have already performed in the Academy of Music, I am honoured to be invited. Of course, the Academy has a historical significance – that reason alone would be enough to make it a special experience.

The programme includes Bach’s Violin Concerto in E major. Where does the Baroque composer-giant sit in your vast repertoire?

I love playing Bach, for me he is a cornerstone. Although well-structured, his music is so pure that it easy to create something new from it every time. I’ve been playing the Violin Concerto in E major for many, many years and it is one of my favourites. Its first movement is energetic and joyful, the second is beautiful and moving, while the last one is like a small sumptuous dance that I think we will all enjoy playing.

The Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra is happy to come up with transcriptions which they also like to perform. They will stage Bach’s Chaconne in April with a full chamber orchestra instead of a solo violin. What is your view of these transcriptions as a violinist?

It is very interesting to see how they come into being. First a complex work – such as the Chaconne – is dismantled and then put together again following a different logic. This allows the basic melody and the individual chords to really shine through. I think this is a rather rich and innovative approach. I look forward to their performance.

You play the Stradivari “Rivaz, Baron Gutmann”. Once a violinist told me that all instruments have distinct personalities and it is possible to have a personal, inspiring connection to your Stradivari. What does your instrument mean to you?

For me, this Stradivari means everything! I can only confirm that the musician’s relationship with his instrument is very personal, indeed, because it lends the performer its voice. This is particularly true of a Stradivari, because they sound like nothing else. Their sound is so rich, so deep, so brilliant that it really contains everything! Every time I pick the instrument up, I feel blessed and lucky to have such a masterpiece in my possession with the opportunity of playing it. It is amazing to think that it has survived wars and revolutions since 1707 and is still with us today, a living part of history. It is a serious mission to take care of it and I am doing my best to preserve it for the next generations.

The Strad has it in one of their articles that it is vital to be curious, trying new ways, no matter it’s the sound or different interpretations. How is it possible to maintain such an attitude in our everyday life?

In a way, it is not that difficult, because days inevitably differ from one another. Even if we are not actively trying to change something, everything changes – that is what life is about. Nevertheless, I am consciously trying to achieve openness; it is my wish not to play from routine only, as practice and preparation tends to strengthen the technical side compared to the musical one. The key is to be free and open to using your voice, which allows you to show the nuances. Take actors, for example: if they only spoke in a monotonous voice, they wouldn’t engage anyone. It is also our aim to colour and to bring out the subtleties, and to express ourselves through our instruments. This can feed on many things, whether it’s meeting interesting people or having a good conversation. Even the smallest thing can prove to be a great source of inspiration to do something different and new.

Speaking of things to do, would you tell us about your plans?

I am incredibly happy and grateful to perform and to be on the stage again. The COVID pandemic was really hard on us, but life finally seems to be back to normal. I will have a lot of concerts in the near future, starting in Hungary, moving on to Germany, Norway and Switzerland, and in June we will record my first album to be released under the SONY label. It is wonderful to feel the inspiration again!


Bach: Violin Concerto in E major, BWV 1042

Grieg: Holberg Suite, Op. 40


Pēteris Vasks: Distant Light – Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra

Bach–Busoni: Chaconne from the Violin Partita in D minor, BWV 1004 – transcription for string orchestra, arranged by Zoltán Tfirst