Borgström / Shostakovich: Violin Concertos - Hemsing / Elts

Borgström / Shostakovich: Violin Concertos - Hemsing / Elts

BIS  BIS-2366

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Hjalmar Borgström: Violin Concerto in G major, Op. 25
Dmitri Shostakovich: Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor

Eldbjørg Hemsing (violin)
Wiener Symphoniker
Olari Elts (conductor)

Eldbjørg Hemsing has been a household name in her native Norway since childhood and made her solo debut with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra at the age of 11. During and after her studies in Vienna, she has absorbed repertoire ranging from Beethoven to Tan Dun, a composer she has collaborated with on several projects in both Europe and Asia. The present disc marks Eldbjørg Hemsing’s first appearance on BIS, and is also her début CD. For the occasion she has chosen to highlight an all but forgotten work by a countryman, Hjalmar Borgström. Like Grieg in the preceding generation, and indeed like many Nordic composers in the late nineteenth century, Borgström went to Germany to study.

However, in contrast to Grieg who returned from Germany firmly resolved to carve out an authentic, Norwegian idiom, Borgström came back a staunch proponent of new German symphonic music. His Violin Concerto in G major was first performed in 1914 as part of a celebration of the centenary of the Norwegian constitution, and the highly tuneful and expressive work was well received. It did not become established in the repertoire, however, and remained practically unknown for nearly a century. It is combined here with a work that is rather more central to the violin repertoire, Dmitri Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto. This was composed at a difficult time for the composer, whose music was denounced as ‘formalistic’ and ‘anti-democratic’ in the infamous so-called Zhdanov decree of 1948. As a result of the post-Stalin thaw the work could finally be premiered in 1955, and with David Oistrakh as its advocate it became instantly successful. Eldbjørg Hemsing is supported in this and in Borgström’sconcerto by the eminent Wiener Symphoniker conducted by Olari Elts.

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PCM recording

Recorded in September 2015 at the MuTh Concert Hall, Vienna, Austria, 24/96

Recording produced and sound engineer: Georg Burdicek

Assistant engineer: Etienne Decreuse

Equipment: DPA, Schoeps, Neumann, AKG and Sennheiser microphones; DirectOut microphone preamplifiers and high-resolution A/D converters; SADiE digital audio workstation; Studer Vista 9 mixing console; Studer and PSI loudspeakers

Post-production: Editing and mixing: Georg Burdicek at the tonzauber-Studio, Wiener Konzerthaus

Executive producer: Robert von Bahr
Comments (6)

Comment by William Hecht - May 13, 2018 (1 of 6)

Since I'd never encountered the piece before I can only say that the performance of the Borgstrom concerto seems absolutely beautiful and makes a strong case for a virtually unknown, very traditional romantic work. I only regret that it wasn't paired with something else off the beaten track like the Kvandal concerto. It's not that there's anything wrong with the Shostakovich performance, in fact I think it's quite powerful and convincing, it's just that it's already well represented in the catalog and I always look forward to BIS' ongoing exploration of new or neglected repertoire. That reservation aside I'll be eagerly awaiting anything further from Eldbjorg Hemsing.

Comment by breydon_music - May 26, 2018 (2 of 6)

Well Bill, I bought this on your recommendation via a snippet or two on Spotify, and I must extend a big thank you for bringing this (and the Boyle disc on Dutton) to our attention. I shared your frustration that we get another Shosty 1 on the B-side; however I did very much enjoy it, particularly the passacaglia, which I don't think I have ever heard played so romantically before - there was a minute or so there when it could almost have been Mendelssohn! We do seem to be mining a rich seam of hi-rez violin concertos right now - first the Ferschtman Korngold and now this lady with, I thought, a very similar tone quality. Great days!

Comment by William Hecht - May 27, 2018 (3 of 6)

In a brief interview on the Presto site Hemsing explains the choice of Shostakovich 1 as a coupling, I certainly can't fault her for wanting to present a work that has meant a great deal to her from the very beginning of her career. And it appears she may have some really off the beaten track stuff in mind for the future. I'm glad to hear you liked the Borgstrom and Boyle. I know I run the risk of over praising these things just because I'm so anxious to start a discussion about something other than the nth reissue of some set of Karajan or Bernstein et al led basic repertoire that seem to dominate the comment section of this site.

Comment by Bruce Zeisel - May 29, 2018 (4 of 6)

Bill Hecht said: "I know I run the risk of over praising these things just because I'm so anxious to start a discussion about something other than the nth reissue of some set of Karajan or Bernstein et al led basic repertoire that seem to dominate the comment section of this site."

Well Bill, I'll bite. Some things going around in my head: Not too long ago PentaTone released a well received recording of Jurowski's Schnittke symphony #3. I found that work rather inaccessible compared with the same composer's violin concerto #4 which I had heard on the radio in a live performance by Gidon Kremer. Years later, I visited Arabella Steinbacher back stage at Middlebury College VT after she had performed a wonderful recital and I mentioned that I thought the Schnittke #4 would make a wonderful companion piece to the Shostakovich #1. "IT WOULD" she exclaimed as she lit up with delight. "I wanted to perform that for my Chicago Symphony debut, but they insisted on the Sibelius." "Well" she said (with a resigned sigh) the Sibelius is a wonderful piece also". "Unfortunately I already recorded the Shostakovich for Orfeo so I cannot do it again for a long time.

Another work that would ideally complement the Schnittke #4 is Frank Martins Polyptyque when played in alternative movements with J. S. Bach: Choräle zum Kreuzweg The link below will take you to the performance.

The Schnittke is a work wherein the world appears to explode in the first movement but the solo violin tentatively comes to life as the first voice to lift in a song of renewal and rebirth.

PentaTone should record Steinbacher in these works with Jurowski. It would be a wonderful contribution to the recorded violin literature

Comment by William Hecht - May 30, 2018 (5 of 6)

Well, Bruce, Schnittke has always been a tough nut for me, and I don't know the Martin, but I'll check the link when I get back home and can listen on something besides an iPad. The first thing by Schnittke I ever heard was Gidon Kremer's recording of the Beethoven concerto with that execrable cadenza. In those pre-remote control days it sent me diving across the living room in search of the volume control or on/off switch, whichever was in closer reach. In any event I've never heard the concerto you mentioned, so I'll have to give it a fair hearing.

I also ought to mention that the new issue of Fanfare includes a longer interview with Hemsing and two glowing reviews of this disc.

Comment by Bruce Zeisel - May 31, 2018 (6 of 6)

Hi Bill

I regard the violin concerto #4 as something of an outlier from Schnittke's ouvre. Although some of the harmonies(?) are challenging, there is a structure and purpose - it seems to tell a story.

On another subject, do you know the Gubaidulina: In tempus praesens violin concerto? It is paired with the Shostakovich vln Concerto #1 in a splendid performance and recording:
Shostakovich: Violin Concerto No. 1, Gubaidulina: In tempus praesens - Lamsma / Gaffigan / de Leeuw