In later years Hellstenius has worked very much in a ‘process-orientated’ fashion together with musicians when writing his music, resulting in a number of highly fascinating works recorded for this release. Henrik Hellstenius’ music is lively and animated, with an interaction between musical elements creating a superior dramaturgy – perhaps a reflection of the fact that Hellstenius has worked a lot with music for theatre and dance. The listener experiences an immediate sense of an underlying melodic, even lyrical, sensitivity, either directly or indirectly present.
Hellstenius’ close collaboration with the violinist Peter Herresthal and percussionist Hans-Kristain Kjos Sørensen have resulted in two concertos. In “Readings of Mr G” instrumental and theatrical elements are combined. The percussionist is not only a musician, but speaker also; an actor in the widest sense. It is a form of artistic project, a musical re-reading of the original text; the mystic Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff as written down by his student Peter Ospensky. There is also a parallel musical “reading” of a late work by the French composer Gérard Grisey, with whom Hellstenius studied. In the beautiful violin concerto “By the voice a faint light is shed” Hellstenius creates the illusion of a temporal paradox: the music has a forward-moving development, but twists and turns will inevitably return us to the point of origin, revealing what the composer calls a ‘spiral form’.
“Hi Ophelia!” is the title of the third scene in Hellstenius second opera: “Ophelias: Death by Waters singing”. Even though this excerpt is removed from the dramaturgy of the opera, the music’s transient textures, vital pauses and melodic tendencies nonetheless convey the innocent Ophelia’s dreams, expectations and hopes of the future, before she is reduced to a pawn in the struggle for power.
A close connection to theatre also exists with the works Book of Songs and Imprints, both sets deriving from work Hellstenius has done for choreographer Ingun Bjørnsgaard’s productions. In Ombra della sera various musical fragments of the Italian composer Luigi Nono are the basis for the work, allowing Hellstenius’ unmistakable flexibility, marked, gestural lines and extrovert temperament, to function almost like an active counterpoint to Nono’s music. The title, which translates as “Shadow of evening”, is also the name of a sculpture in the Etruscan Museum at Volterra in Tuscany, portraying a very tall, thin, young man. The unusual shape of the ancient effigy was a mystery to the archaeologists who discovered it in the eighteenth century. One suggestion was that it might have been an attempt to represent the long shadow of evening rather than the person himself.