Trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth Takes on Mantle of 'Storyteller'

Friday, March 09, 2012

So ingrained is the trumpet’s reputation for brilliant fanfares and "Flight of the Bumblebee"-style pyrotechnics, it’s easy to forget that it is also a distinctively lyrical instrument. The Norwegian trumpet player Tine Thing Helseth (pronounced Teen-eh Ting Hel-set) explores its melodic potential with “Storyteller,” a collection of songs about love and loss by late Romantic composers (including Rachmaninoff, Dvorak, Sibelius and Grieg) as well as some mid-20th-century names (Weill, Korngold, Canteloube).

This is Helseth’s debut album for EMI and her introduction to American audiences. While just 24, the Oslo native has already built an active career as a soloist in Europe and the UK, where, like fellow label-mate Alison Balsom, she defies the stereotypically macho image of the trumpet soloist. She even founded an ensemble of ten female brass players four years ago called tenThing, which has toured Europe on several occasions.

In her liner notes for “Storyteller,” Helseth describes how, when playing song transcriptions, “you have to be even more expressive so that the song has meaning. You have to play them as though the audience can actually hear the words.”

Indeed, without lyrics, one focuses on the big tunes here, which include Dvorak’s “Songs My Mother Taught Me” and Strauss’s “Wiegenlied,” both about the relationship between mother and child. It's a theme that has special resonance for Helseth: Her mother is an amateur trumpeter who inspired her to take up the instrument as a child.

Another thread that runs through the collection is anguish over lost love, expressed in “Marietta’s Lied” from Korngold’s opera Die tote Stadt, Canteloube’s “Malurous qu’o uno fenno” and Weill’s “Je ne t’aime pas” ("I don’t love you”). At the heart of the program is Haugtussa, collection of songs by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg that tells the story of a young herding girl -- her first love affair and her first heartache (played here with piano accompaniment).

Helseth applies a liquid legato tone and commanding range to these and other selections. If the ultra-Romantic string arrangements start to feel a bit heavy at times, one can’t fault a trumpeter who puts over an hour’s worth of music on her first release. Especially since Maurice André's passing last month, Helseth brings some needed fresh air to the trumpet.

Tine Thing Helseth
EMI Classics
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Eivind Aadland
Håvard Gimse
Available at

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Comments [6]

AF from Long Island

Grieg's "Haugtussa (The Mountain Maid) Op 67: No 8 at the Brook" (played a little after 4:00 pm) was quite gorgeous. Hope you play it again even when this cd is not the featured cd of the week.

Mar. 14 2012 06:52 PM
Peter J Blume from Westchester, NY

It’s nice to see the trumpet getting so much attention recently at WQXR!

...whether it’s on the heals of the passing of Maurice André—possibly the greatest Classical Trumpet Soloist EVER, or because of the infamous Canadian Brass getting their recent ‘youthful facelift’, or more probably because 2 of today’s very capable Classical Trumpet Soloists—also happen to be 2 attractive young women! Either way, it’s a wise move on the part of WQXR to strike while the ‘iron is hot’, and their efforts to propagate itself as a Classical Radio venue--thus also assists in the propagation of our field of interest here—namely Classical Music & more specifically, Classical Trumpet Music. Like it or not.

However I do also agree with several of the comments here. While I personally didn’t mind (& actually enjoyed) Jeff Spurgeon’s interview with Allison Balsom talking about Maurice André, the other article—regarding Ms. Balsom’s top 5 favorite hotels in the world (really?!) was a bit ridiculous, at least for me. Maybe that would have been a more appropriate piece for say a Travel Channel, but I too would much rather see WQXR devote some space & better effort to a more in-depth retrospective on Maurice Andre...

About Ms. Helseth’s article & new album: I am relatively unfamiliar with her & her work, but am now looking forward to checking it out! I like the idea of her approaching the Classical Trumpet from a different angle; similar to the notion of why Miles came up with the ‘Cool School’ style of playing at a time when Diz’s BeeBop seemed to be the only way. Sometimes a refreshing change is necessary...& apparently for Tine Thing Helseth, the time is now.

Mar. 14 2012 03:04 AM
Tim Taffe, Iowa City, from Iowa City Iowa

Methinks WQXR has hired a previous writer from Playboy or GQ.

Never did you ever cover Maurice Andre the way you are covering this bevy.
Actually, I would welcome a Maurice Andre retrospective, rather...


Mar. 13 2012 03:50 PM
LES from WDC 20036

Stunning . . . the trumpet playing, of course

Mar. 13 2012 08:33 AM
John M Carringer from Tucson, AZ

"Storyteller" is Ms Helseth's debut album for EMI, but her two previous releases, "Trumpet Concertos" (Haydn, Albinoni, Neruda, Hummel) and "My Heart is Ever Present" (Christmas Songs) are also available from Amazon here in the US, and have been for some time. They are releases of the Norwegian Classical Label SIMAX, and each is as remarkable, in my opinion (note that I am no expert), as "Storyteller." I have played all three albums many times over. If you haven't heard the earlier albums, you are in for a treat.

My favorite is "My Heart is Ever Present" for its deeply moving beauty. On some of the tracks the trumpet is accompanied by the singer Isa Katharina Gericke. The voice and the trumpet intertwine in a way that is spellbinding.

Mar. 12 2012 04:04 PM
Michael Meltzer

Artistic merits of Helseth and Balsom notwithstanding, it is difficult not to note a certain underlying approach to WQXR's presentation of the each talent. Should we be anticipating the swimsuit competition?

Mar. 12 2012 03:41 AM

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