Programnote: Henning Sommerro – Borders – about the piece

© Aleksandre Khatiskatsi

History, politics, hope and multi-media presentation meet in Henning Sommerro’s new violin concerto “Borders”, to be premiered (when? where?).

The final days in the life of Norwegian author, artist and muse Dagny Juel, who was murdered in Tbilisi in 1903, form part of the inspiration for “Borders”. Juel is known for her association with artists Edvard Munch, August Strindberg, Richard Dehmel and Stanisław Przybyszewski, but was a formidable creator in her own right. 

Following her footsteps with the goal of writing an opera about her, Sommerro traveled to Georgia in 2013. It was a trip rich in evocative experience. While writing his novel “Wonderland” in 1899, the Nobel Prize-winning Norwegian author Knut Hamsun stayed in the building next to the hotel where Juel had been shot dead by one of her admirers. 

Aleksander Khatiskatsi, a Georgian violinist with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, encouraged Sommero to make the journey, which in turn inspired him to commission a violin concerto in collaboration with the orchestra. The trip, and Khatiskatsi himself, became key influences in the creation of “Borders”During his stay in Tblisi, Sommerro was affected by his impressions of social unrest and the rise of the new right in Georgia. Growing tensions across Europe, their evocation of a dark history, and the contrast offered by the fierce beauty of the continent’s nature became additional sources of inspiration for “Borders”. 

In their work Khatiskatsi and Sommerro approaching art with the same uncompromising passion for nature and humanity. AsKhatiskatsi´s says: “Nature is a part of human beings – and humanity is part of nature”.

Khatiskatsi’s collaborative encouragement for the new piece soon brought with it a new dimension for the concerto. The violinist is also an accomplished photographer, with a strong focus on Georgia’s natural environment. Together, he and Sommerro decided to incorporate projected images of his photographs, particularly those from Svaneti, a historic province situated on the southern slopes of the central Caucasus Mountain, into the “Borders” performance.  Breathtaking landscapes and the changing moods of nature thus form an integral part of the work.

Borders is thus a European elegy – a lament for the past and the present. Its first movement is infused with a haunted sense of unrest, with short motifs and fanfares. Its second movement is an explicit and lyrical threnody for Europe which leads to the final movement, an expression of hope for peace and common sense to guide the continent’s journey towards the future. 

With its poignant and disparate influences, “Borders” ends on a note of optimism, a New Year’s wish from the composer to his listeners.

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