You are the founder and creator of the Verdensballeten. Can you tell us about your vision behind it and what initially brought the idea to you?
The vision is to present ballet, opera, and classical music in nontraditional settings - open air in particularly beautiful and historic places in Denmark, thus engaging in artistic dialogue with nature's own framework, but also reaching an audience that rarely or never gets a chance to experience art at this high international level. When we started in 2008, it was simply intended as a cultural event that gave the audience an atmospheric experience in the bright Nordic summer. That it would develop into so many performances and locations throughout Denmark I had never dreamed of.
The pandemic saw difficulties that most never thought of. What has been the biggest challenge for you and Verdensballetten in the past year?
Like many other cultural events, the World Ballet also had to cancel its performances in 2020. We are grateful for the help packages we have received, but we would rather have gone on stage, met our audience and felt the artistic community as the World Ballet is - we highly missed it.
Throughout the summer, the World Ballet will perform 14 shows throughout Denmark. Is there a particular performance that you are looking forward to ?
Each location has its own unique atmosphere. All the places are very different, and even though the program is the same throughout the trip, the performance is very different from place to place, precisely because the place's setting is our backdrop. It's hard to highlight one location over another, but of course I have a special love for Skagen - where the World Ballet began in 2008.
What brought you into ballet?
I come from a ballet family. My sister Ida was dancing at The Royal Danish Ballet School, and once a year the ballet students families were invited to come to the theater to watch them take ballet class. I remember falling in love with-not watching the ballet class, but the magical place of the theatre. The costumes, lights and especially the music, so I asked my mother how I also could go to school in this incredible place, and went to the ballet school audition, and were lucky to be accepted.
What is it that inspires you to work with the modern language of ballet as an art form?
Ballet is an art form with lots of traditional rules of how to hold and place your body in various unnatural positions. In contemporary ballet you’re allowed to break some of those rules and connect to a more human way of being.
I do believe that there’s lots to learn and share from both languages. The mix of the two - adding the freedom and human connection from the modern language into the classical ballet is when something very unique happens.
Where do you see itself proving the most important?
It really is the emotional side of ballet that makes it different from any sport and athleticism. As dancers we do the same as a great athlete but it’s the ability to tell a story and evoke some sort of emotion or feeling within someone that makes it important and special.
As a soloist, chamber musician and conductor you have played all over the world. Does it still feel exciting for you to visit new festivals?
Yes! I need to come first to Møn to be finally able to say that I have been playing all over the world! Getting a bit older one has experienced that first of all great pieces never ever leave us bored but even more curious to look deeper into them. Secondly such wonderful musicians as are gathering here encourage enormously - and to be honest any different environment and good food should never be underestimated to be part of the artistic game!
As one of the leading violists in the world, what is your top tip to an aspiring musician?
After hard but inspiring work to learn the instrument (90% transpiration and 100 % of 10% inspiration) one needs visions, curiosity and the inner need of searching and finding the own language and personality. “Panta rhei” ist a good old greek expression for it. This is absolutely magic in our artistic field. Once we have found a solution it will be questioned immediately again. In a way we have to stay children forever!
Has the pandemic changed some of your perspectives on classical music and your thoughts as an artist ?
Firstly I feel rather the confirmation of the very unique essence of art as literature, painting or music: being an international language and having the strength in giving consolation in also this difficult time. We all might need even more of the art and culture than ever to cure and keep up our identity in our society. It would be the worst if the politics would due the greatest cut here. Secondly the competition in our field will be even stronger and I am convinced that quite a few musicians will swap from the artistic free concertizing into the pedagogical field.
Thirdly it will be highly interesting to follow the musical development as far as compositions and creations are concerned under the impressions of the past two years.
at this venue. It felt like a huge moment in our journey as a group to finally be able to perform here.
You are the artistic director at HICSUM, one of Denmark’s big new festivals. How is it this year for you, preparing the festival after lockdown?
We have been so lucky that last year's festival was in a period of ease regarding pandemic restrictions. So we went through very well with no fear and great enthusiasm among the audience and musicians. This year's preparation has been ‚normal‘, but I feel even more the thankfulness behind the scene for all activities at the front, after this forced ascetic period.
Has the Covid affected your artistic choices and future perspectives for the festival ?
I can’t say that Covid has affected my choices for 2021, and even my view for the future. But, let's see what we are going to face in the upcoming time...
What do you enjoy the most in combining the careers as orchestra musician, chamber musician and artistic director of Hicsum?
During the years of musicianship I have a bunch of relationships with great colleagues and ensembles, also in the orchestras. To combine these relations with programmatic ideas, also including new names and composers I find very satisfying and feel privileged.
Amongst your many great achievements, you are a 4 double Grammy winner. How do you find new goals and challenges in your life and career as a musician ?
I do not think so much about my career as such. I am in it for the music and the inspiration. So I go where the inspiration takes me. Basically my continuous goal is to be the best version of myself where I can put myself at service for the music that wants to go through me and wants to be shared with my audience.
You run your own Festival Night I Næstved which this year takes place on the 11th. Can you share some of the thoughts behind this year's program ?
I started doing the Falgren & Friends Festival Night in 2019. Since 2016 I have been doing my own concert series at Rønnebæksholm near Næstved. Normally I have 4 concerts per year there. People were complaining that there were not enough tickets for these concerts, so I got the idea to make the Festival where a selection of the many artists that have been playing in the concert series are playing. This year the festival will take place on the 11. th of September in Grønnegade Kaserne Kulturcenter, Næstved.
What is the biggest difference to you between playing classical music and jazz in today’s world ?
I guess it's mainly the element of improvisation. I always interpret the now which means that I never play the same twice. I admire and respect so many classical players like Niklas Walentin. Personally I don’t think I could ever play the works that he and so many other great classical players are playing. Instead I am composing and performing my own music and working with my own personal tone and playing.
As a group, you have been together now for 10 years! What would you say is a key to success of staying together as a group and keeping the joy of playing together?
It is incredible to think that it has been 10 years! It is interesting you mention staying together as a group. This is often overlooked as a measure of success, but all too often groups start off strong and then come apart for a myriad of reasons.
I think there are a number of factors to staying together as a group. Friendship and the love of the chamber music repertoire are at the core of it, because without these I think there would be no real incentive to remain together long term. It’s a multi-faceted thing, running and performing a chamber music group, and the performances are just the tip of the iceberg, below which all the hard work, creativity and organisation really occur. We have a great team, all with different
strengths and weaknesses, and we seem to all balance each other out and keep the group moving onwards and upwards.
Secondly, the constant development and growth of the group, from the fantastic opportunities we have had to perform and learn from other incredible and inspiring musicians through giving concerts, workshops, and attending various courses, but also through participating in competitions and watching our colleagues perform. And by passing on our own thoughts and experiences to others through courses and classes we have run or while tutoring at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, I think we have learned just as much as the students!
You were double prize winners at the International Carl Nielsen Chamber Music Competition in 2015. What was your experience like being part of the competition and visiting Denmark for the first time?
This was a really exciting trip for us. Copenhagen is such a beautiful city, and it was a real treat to be able to explore and take in some of the sights during our stay. I remember some long walks around the city as well as an unplanned trip to Christian IV's Brewhouse near the Royal Library.
The competition was fantastic. We were able to perform in a number of superb venues around the city to extremely friendly and welcoming audiences. Whilst competitions are always high pressure and stressful, we couldn’t have been made to feel more at home. The experience did end up being a little more of an adventurous than planned however as our horn player Chris had a run in with a very hot chilli and almost passed out during our performance!
What would you say were three top highlights of your career as a group?
There are so many great moments it is impossible for me to give you a definitive list, and I’m sure each of us have different ones so I will just mention some that immediately spring to mind. For me there have been some really treasured moments on the Scottish Isle of Coll, where we spent time at the Tunnel Trust course. The surroundings are absolutely otherworldly and it felt like some sort of musician’s paradise to be able to have the time and space to work in such beautiful surroundings and with such fabulous coaches.
We have had some wonderful tours too. Two of our favourites were Denmark and Japan. I love travelling, and sharing our music is a great way to connect that goes beyond language. In times when it feels as if there is so much division in the world, music can act as a glue and create moments for anyone to share and connect with. It was also such a special experience to perform the Nielsen Quintet in Denmark.
Performing at Wigmore Hall in London was a definite career highlight. I think it is any chamber musician’s dream to perform at this venue. It felt like a huge moment in our journey as a group to finally be able to perform here.