The Classical Station’s interview with Eldbjorg Hemsing for Preview!
Interview with Eldbjorg Hemsing
by Bethany Tillerson (photo credits: © Gregor Hohenberg)
On Sunday, March 26th, Eldbjørg Hemsing will appear on Preview! Dedicated to bringing classical music to a mainstream audience, this Norwegian violinist has performed at multiple venues, such as the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, the United Nations, and the UN Security Council. Her most recent album, Arctic, was a soundscape of the North released in February 2023.
NAOMI: It’s Women’s History Month; interviewing you about your latest album is part of our celebration of the amazing female artists currently working in the classical music world. Could you please tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and about your musical journey?
HEMSING: I come from a little village in Norway called Odo. It has around 600 inhabitants. My mother’s a violinist and my older sister also plays a violin, so I have spent my whole life in music. I grew up in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I really grew up with a lot of nature and Nordic mythology around me, and this felt like such a good starting point to create an album. I traveled a lot up to the Arctic, to a lot of wonderful cities in northern Norway that are not that easy to get to, as well as to the island of Svalbard. This whole area is just so incredibly special. It’s almost hard to put it in words, I find. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to create a musical journey through it, because it had such an impact on how I think about the world and nature.
NAOMI: Can you talk a little bit about how you actually put the album together?
HEMSING: From the beginning I really wanted this to have a grand symphonic sound to it. Whenever you look at recordings made about the Arctic, they’re very much taken directly from the sounds you hear. You can imagine ice cracking. And it’s a really stark, difficult landscape to navigate in. I wanted to create something that was like an audiovisual journey. It’s a big mix between new pieces and some older melodies from my favorite composers, all connected to the Arctic in one way or another.
NAOMI: The central work on the album is Jacob Shea’s Arctic Suite. Could you describe the suite’s different sections and what they represent?
HEMSING: I’m so grateful that Jacob Shea wanted to write this suite for the album. When I heard some of the music he and Hans Zimmer wrote for “The Blue Planet” and other BBC documentaries, it was so strong and powerful and so alive that I immediately had a sense of what the music was saying. This suite is in six parts, taking on certain things you experience in the Arctic. The first part is “Frozen World”, and from there we go into “Sunrise”. When the sun returns after months of darkness, it signals a new beginning, a new hope. And you know that every day is going to become a little bit longer. That is a really important moment in the north. And then we have a “Rush of Life”. There’s so much life in the Arctic. There’s so much you can’t necessarily see with your eyes, hidden beneath either lights on the dam, the glaciers, or on the icebergs or just under the snow. The last part is “Sea Ice Melting”, which is also unfortunately a big talking point about the Arctic and what’s happening there.
NAOMI: Frode Fjellheim worked on this album; he also worked on the movie Frozen. Why do his pieces work on this album?
HEMSING: He creates a lot of works for all kinds of instruments and for choral works. And he’s a really curious musician who sees music in everything. He is also from the indigenous tribe called Sami from the Southern Summit. For me, it’s important when talking about the Arctic to mention that this is also their territory. Asking him to contribute a joik, their traditional way of singing, felt really important. The works that he composed, “Under the Arctic Moon” and “The Return of the Sun”, represent two vital moments in the Arctic. He joined in on the joik in “The Return of the Sun”.
Join us for Eldbjørg Hemsing’s full interview at 8 PM on Sunday, March 26! Download our app, stream online on TheClassicalStation.org, or turn your radio to 89.7 FM.