At twenty-one the Norwegian trumpet player Tine Thing Helseth is on the path of an international career as brilliant as the tone of her instrument. Since her breakthrough at the Eurovision Young Musicians competition in 2006, where she claimed second place, her trajectory has swept her skyward and around the world, winning numerable awards and earning fantastic reviews, not least for her 2007 record debut, entitled simply Trumpet Concertos.
-For a period things were happening so fast I couldn’t really keep up, says Tine on the phone from Switzerland where she is performing with the Philharmonie Baden-Baden. -But now I feel on top of things and that I have found a well-functioning professional equilibrium in my life.
The most recent honour bestowed on the young Norwegian will certainly be a further help in this respect: Thing Helseth was awarded The Borletto Buitoni Trust Fellowship 2009, which is an important international award and a career launcher for young exceptional classical musicians.
-The great thing about the Borletto Buitoni Trust is that is sort of works as an extended musical family. They have been awarding these fellowships for ten years now, and the first recipients are still very much part of the family. There is a ten thousand pound prize, but the most important part is the advice and guidance they offer. The fellowship is not something you can apply for, you are nominated, which makes it even more of a privilege to receive. I was so happy when they called me.
A holder also of the StatoilHydro (The Norwegian Energy giant) scholarship since 2006, Tine Thing Helseth is now in the position to pursue her career without making any compromises. The economic backing makes it possible to opt for the most challenging and musically rewarding choices, without having to worry about earning. In return she gives a number of concerts for the company each year.
-I have been fortunate, and I can focus entirely on developing musically, says Thing Helseth.
Playing the trumpet since the age of seven, Tine has been a student as Oslo’s renowned Barratt Due musical institute since her early teens.
-I have had then same teacher since I was fourteen, says Tine. This spring I will complete my bachelor degree at Barratt Due, and then I will go on to diploma studies at the Norwegian Academy of Music, still working with my mentor Arnulf Naur Nilsen. I have played with many international professors, so I know that the level of education I have access to in Norway is of world standard. It is important to me that I know my teachers and that we have a good personal chemistry. I think I profit a lot from having a familiar base in Norway, studying with people who know me, personally and musically. Naur Nilsen as been by my side through everything that has happened over the past years, and I want to capitalize further on our close relationship.
Tine thing Helseth has been described as one who challenges and expands the range and technical possibilities of the trumpet. Her playing is pristine and spiritually inspiring; some have said that appears completely as one with her instrument.
-Every trumpet player has a distinct tone, says Tine, and I can often tell from a single note or phrase who is playing. I hope that is true for my playing as well. I want it to be infused with a personal voice, as if I’m actually singing. In this way the musicality is not determined by the instrument. I express my personal voice through the trumpet, but it could have been any other instrument. Musicality lies deeper than the specific instrument, it is a universal language, and I always find it fascinating to communicate musically with people playing other instruments. Since we don’t know the possibilities and limitations of the other instruments, it is a great way of expanding the musical horizon and exploring technical possibilities from new vantage points.
Tine started out on the piano, but switched to trumpet at the age of seven.
-My mother played the trumpet, Tine relates, so I grew up to the wonderfully versatile sound of that instrument. I think the trumpet is unique in its expressive qualities; there are so many nuances. One can play loudly, in what is perhaps a masculine way, but just as well tenderly and fragile, in a more feminine manner. And the trumpet is also very diverse in terms of genre: from classical to jazz and pop etc.
Tine plays an American trumpet, which must be distinguished from the German version. This is not determined by the country of production, but refers to two slightly different instruments.
-A way of describing the difference is that the American instrument has a circular tone, with a lot of brilliance, while the German trumpet is more oval; the tone is wider and less brilliant.
In Scandinavia we have mostly made use of the American trumpet; its brilliance is part of the so-called Scandinavian sound. But the differences in terms of national traditions and sound are in the process of being erased. It is the same with all instruments really; with musicians travelling a lot and studying abroad, the entire system of different schools and sounds is much less pronounced these days.
Norway has a rich milieu for trumpet and brass music and the country has fostered several world class players.
- Norway is far from the citadel of trumpet music, says Tine, however, we have a very strong wind band tradition, and over the years I think that there has evolved a very fruitful evolutionary structure where the high number of young players results in an equal number of teachers, up the very highest international level. The Scandinavian school of trumpet music is determined by this tradition, while the European and German tradition is more about orchestral music. Of course where I am now I work within both practices and continental Europe is by far the biggest market for trumpet soloists like myself.
Tine’s record, Trumpet Concertos, which won a Norwegian Grammy award, was very well received across Europe and the wider world.
-The whole project was the result of a phone call from the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, says Tine.
-They had to make some last-minute alterations in their plans, and called me after the Young Musicians competition in Vienna, asking if I would like to play the Haydn concert with the orchestra. I was thrilled of course, and it was a fantastic experience. And in the wake of that concert we started talking about making a record. Making it was a lot of fun, and I really feel that it became a very good record, something that was really me.
Now a new release might be on its way..
-I really can’t say much about it, but it will probably come out in the not-too-distant future and it will be a wonderful record I think, very personal, with music that has been on my repertoire for a long time.
2009 is a very exciting year for the young virtuoso. She has already made her debut in Tokyo, and also performed in Vietnam. In December she debuts in Washington. Altogether she will play no less than a hundred concerts this year.
When asked a few years back Tine related that her goal was to travel and play internationally, like the Norwegian piano megastar Leiv Ove Andsnes. Some might say that she has already reached that goal.
-Well, it is very flattering thought, but I don’t look at it that way. Of course I have reached many of my goals, but new ones appear all the time. It is a continuing process that never ends. There are always even better orchestras to play with, more demanding pieces and more renowned conductors. And most importantly, the personal development, both technically and musically, is an almost life-long process.
Simax (Record Companies)
Tine Thing Helseth, Trumpetist