Music

This charming man

Charlie Siem, the half-British, half-Norwegian violinist, only came to the virtuosic style late in his development (‘probably because I was lazy’, he explains, not convincing me for a moment); but when he did he was hooked. His new, self-titled album (Warner Classics) is, ostensibly, a homage to the virtuosic tradition established in the early-19th century by Paganini, who once proclaimed, ‘I am not handsome, but when women hear me play, they come crawling to my feet.’ Siem, who is currently the global face of Dunhill, does not have that problem.

30 March 2011

11:35 AM

30 March 2011

11:35 AM

Charlie Siem, the half-British, half-Norwegian violinist, only came to the virtuosic style late in his development (‘probably because I was lazy’, he explains, not convincing me for a moment); but when he did he was hooked. His new, self-titled album (Warner Classics) is, ostensibly, a homage to the virtuosic tradition established in the early-19th century by Paganini, who once proclaimed, ‘I am not handsome, but when women hear me play, they come crawling to my feet.’ Siem, who is currently the global face of Dunhill, does not have that problem.

Charlie Siem, the half-British, half-Norwegian violinist, only came to the virtuosic style late in his development (‘probably because I was lazy’, he explains, not convincing me for a moment); but when he did he was hooked. His new, self-titled album (Warner Classics) is, ostensibly, a homage to the virtuosic tradition established in the early-19th century by Paganini, who once proclaimed, ‘I am not handsome, but when women hear me play, they come crawling to my feet.’ Siem, who is currently the global face of Dunhill, does not have that problem.

But, in other ways, the young violinist does bear a striking resemblance to his Italian predecessor. His fingers move impossibly quickly, and the album is a fantastic whirlwind of demisemiquavers, ricochet bowing and left-hand pizzicato. One feels, too, that Paganini would admire Siem’s love of the theatrical: he played two of the tracks on the album at the European ‘Night of the Proms’ concert series, under a single spotlight in the middle of 20,000-seater arenas; another two he performed on stage with two male members of the Royal Ballet dancing around him, vying for a woman’s attention. Needless to say, it was the dashing, virtuosic Siem, integrated into the choreography, who got the girl.
He has plans for other projects of a similarly adventurous nature, including a possible foray into jazz. ‘The aim is to keep reinventing myself,’ says the 25-year-old. So, for him, it’s not just about keeping the virtuosic tradition alive. It’s also about renewing it.

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