Today, the Hardanger violin is regarded as Norway's national instrument. The name comes from the fact that the first known instruments were made in the Hardanger area.The modern Hardanger violin is a little smaller than the ordinary violin, richly decorated with pen drawings and mother-of-pearl inlays, and usually has 4 or5 resonating understrings.
Except for the element of understrings, where the Hardanger violin has relatives in both the near and far East and in Europe, the Hardanger vioin is today an exclusively Norwegian phenomenon.The oldest Hardanger violin that has been found and registered is dated 1651(the Jastad violin).
E,Grieg composed many famous music based on the melancholic tone of this instrument.
Violin & Hardingfele, composition & arrangement
Fiolin, Hardingfele, komponist og arrangor
Rio Yamase graduated on violin with top marks and distinction from Toho Gakuen University in Tokyo as a student of the renowned teachers the late Professor Toshiya Etoh and Mrs. Angela Etoh. She also studied Hardanger violin under Knut Hamre, Christian Borlaug, and the late Hallvard Kvaale, who are famous fiddle players in Norway.
Pursuant to her formal studies, Mrs. Yamase performed as a solo violinist with the Kansai Philharmonic Orchestra and the Slovak Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra in 1992. In 1998 she kicked off her Japan-Scandinavia tour with a remarkable concert at the Munch museum in Oslo.
From 2003 she started to incorporate the Hardanger violin into her performances. She was introduced as “The pioneering Hardanger fiddler of Japan” on major television broadcasts such as NHK’s Good Morning from Studio Park and Ittorokken, and in the culture sections of major newspapers such as the Asahi Shimbun column Tenseijingo, the Nikkei Shimbun and the FujiSankei Business i.
She has also been invited to hold concerts and lectures introducing Nordic music in various parts of Japan and Scandinavia including places like the Suntory Hall; the respective embassies of the Scandinavian countries; events with the Scandinavian Tourist Board (STB) and Scandinavian Airlines (SAS); participating in special charity cruise events on the Asuka and the Pacific Venus; and performing on the trip with the Norwegian Coastal Express (Hurtigruta) - often described as the “World’s Most Beautiful Sea Voyage” - not to mention but a few.
Her violin and Hardanger fiddle playing has been featured in both radio and TV on the Norwegian National Broadcast (NRK), and also as top entertainment news in the leading Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.
With her feet firmly planted in the Classical tradition she explores the boundaries of Folk, Pop, Celtic and Americana, and has released the 2 CDs Golden Aurora (2004) and Crystal Rose Garden (2005) on Victor Entertainment (Inc.), which also includes some of her original compositions.
Furthermore, at the Cremona Violin Exhibition Party sponsored by the Italian embassy and YAMAHA Music Trading Corporation, Mrs.Yamase performed on the Stradivarius violin called “Il Cremonese”; the great national treasure of Italy with an estimated value of 500 million dollars. This got a lot of media coverage, both in Italy and Japan.
In 2006 she both composed and performed the music for the Japanese animated short film Monmon the Water Spider, produced by the renowned anime studio Studio Ghibli and its famous director Hayao Miyazaki. In addition to the release of the short film soundtrack, she even went on playing the Hardanger fiddle on the full-length Ghibli animation movie Tales from Earthsea released that same year.
In 2007 Mrs. Yamase played the Hardanger fiddle at the first staging ever been made in Japan of the full verison of Ibsen’s theatrical play Peer Gynt. This was performed at The Tokyo University of the Arts in cooperation with Tokyo New City Orchestra, and was very well received. In October the same year she summoned the Norwegian musicians with whom she had performed with at the Munch museum some years earlier, and went on the successful Japan-tour - A Gift from Scandinavia - in Hyogo, Niigata and Tokyo.
In 2008 she continued with her lectures at the Asahi- and NHK Cultural Center, and at a forum held by Tokyo Shimbun called “Rio Yamase and Norway: Scandinavia - the place where they play the Hardanger fiddle”, she presented different cultural exchange activities which all had developed out of love for music.
In 2009 the first Japan- Hardanger Cultural Exchange Festival was held in Ullensvang, and the mayor in the district of Hardanger held the opening speech. The big regional paper Bergens Tidene and other local media covered the event. In December that same year the Japan Hardanger Club was founded; a corporation with the purpose of introducing Nordic culture in Japan and to promote cultural exchange. Mrs. Yamase assumed the position as president of the company.
In March 2010 she performed together with the Bergen Youth Orchestra, and 2 month later she was selected to perform at the Hardanger Music Festival as one out of only two international acts.
The same year, with the blessing and cooperation of the local government of Hardanger and Scandinavia Airlines (SAS), she started the Rio Yamase Norway Hardanger Violin Scholarship, which, on a yearly basis, is sending 2 students to Hardanger on a short-term exchange program. This has created a lot of attention within the local community.
In 2011 Mrs. Yamase has, together with continuous concert activities, started the lecture series “Music as a tool of Cultural Exchange” at Saga University Department of Economics.
She arranged the Japan- Hardanger Cultural Exchange Festival for the second time in June 2012. This year she is also featured on the first page of the National Music Textbook for Elementary School (1st to 3rd grade) in the “Foundation studies – and materials for enjoying music” section. Under the heading “Folk music instruments of the world”, an in-depth introduction of the Hardanger violin and Mrs.Yamase as a performer is being presented.
Upcoming projects for her in 2013 include Hardanger violin performance on the main theme to the film Aoki ga Hara, for which Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, who also is executive director, has written the original manuscript.
In April, the second “Rio Yamase Hardanger Violin Scholarship” was held, and two of her students studied in Hardanger.
In October, “Gala concert” of the two students was performed in the Norwegian embassy in Tokyo, and all seven mayors of Hardanger were invited.
In the same time, Knut Hamre, who is a great master of Hardanger violin was invited to Japan, and had concerts in Tokyo and Osaka together with Rio Yamase.
In 2014, which is the 10th anniversary from her major debut, she performed on the Asuka II northern Europe cruise (Sweden, Norway, and Iceland) as a guest artist.
She also started concert activity in Malaysia which is her birthplace.
In March 2015, she held a 10th anniversary concert in the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Tokyo.
On 22nd April, which is the beginning of her 11th year, her 10th anniversary CD "Love Song from the Fjords" will be released.