Grieg • Thoresesn • Olsen

COMPOSERS: Brahms/Rota
LABELS: Dinmore Records
ALBUM TITLE: Grieg • Thoresen • Olsen
WORKS: Six old Village Songs from Lom; traditional Norwegian tunes
PERFORMER: Ragnhild Hemsing (violin, Hardanger fiddle), Tor Espen Aspaas (piano)


Norwegian artist Ragnhild Hemsing is equally talented as a violinist and an exponent of the Hardanger fiddle (a folk instrument equipped with resonating strings). It seems only natural, therefore, that her warmly recorded debut solo disc should celebrate both these gifts. Indeed, her programme is cleverly chosen to show connections between the two instruments, interspersing traditional folk music with concert works.

Hemsing conjures up hypnotic colours from her Hardanger fiddle in four contrasting traditional dance movements which include a Halling, Springar and, most beguilingly, a piece inspired by the sounds and rhythms of church bells. The first of her concert works is Sparre Olsen’s Six Village Songs, an attractive early 20th-century arrangement of simple melodies delivered with warmth by Hemsing and her pianist, Tor Espen Aspaas. It’s followed by Grieg’s First Violin Sonata, performed with freshness and great rhythmic verve. Not surprisingly, Hemsing is effective in drawing out the folk inflections from the middle section of the second movement, but she also brings a rustic energy to the Finale.

The final work, Yr, is an unaccompanied violin piece by Lasse Thoresen, employing microtonal tuning directly inspired by Norwegian fiddle music. It’s played engagingly, with Hemsing managing once again to draw you into a uniquely mesmeric sound-world. Simax also offers the chance to experience this work as an enhanced bonus video-track, with Hemsing performing alongside dancer Hallgrim Hansegård. But it’s hard to find; details on which settings are required to watch it on PC would have been helpful.


Erik Levi