«Every time you play a piece, even if it is the same, it never comes out identically. Music is defined by abstraction because there is the aspect of time one has to inhabit» – Charlie Siem
Charlie Siem, background
«Music for me is the highest form of art. It is both time and sound. Abstraction. It was and still is my privileged channel, my very essence. The quality of sound of a violin is like that of the human voice. In other words, it is perfect, ideal for expressing feelings, the state of mind and different emotions».
Charlie Siem is a golden boy, born thirty-one years ago in London and now based in the Principality of Monaco. In the last decade, he has become one of the most well-known classic violinists globally. He has played confidently with the Who and Miley Cyrus. A superstar since 2001 with oodles of charisma.
At the age of three, Charlie Siem discovered classical music when he listened to the Beethoven Violin Concerto. Seeking to gain access to the world of classical music, he went to Cambridge University, where he studied for an academic undergraduate degree, concentrating on music from a historical aspect. «My parents encouraged me to keep a breadth in my education, so I studied music from this different perspective. This angle taught me to go beyond playing the violin. It made me ask the question of why. Why do I want to play the violin?».
The Beethoven play, a piece of music history, accompanied Siem as «a symbol» throughout the years of his career. Understanding the composer’s works as melodies captivating through simplicity yet joyfulness, Siem feels connected to the pieces’ motions and interpretations. «Beethoven is a master of expressions, using so little techniques and symbols. He cuts right into the heart of the human experience, which is why he created music that is timeless, almost eternal. It awakened in me my capacity to express something universal – It sparked the quest for meaning in my life».
Guarnieri del Gesù
Siem conceals any suffering, pain, and catharsis – which are obvious – with a smile and a very British approach. Charlie is direct and friendly, but it is clear that he has an interior complexity and perhaps a streak of sadness, like all Capricorns. He is now more and more under the spotlight, dispelling the cliché of musicians who are doomed, tormented, and consumed by their art and the genius inside them. His whole life revolves around music, mainly the violin – he is a ‘Guarnieri del Gesù’, or d’Egville from 1735, previously owned by Yehudi Menuhin. They are also his greatest enjoyment. «Then there is the ambition that sometimes exceeds even talent and discipline, which you either have or don’t. It is a natural, essential element, as is a healthy amount of severe self-criticism. Without exaggeration, of course».
Eton, Girton College, and Cambridge University
This type of enjoyment is a concept that Charlie Siem, who was educated at renowned schools, such as Eton, Girton College, and Cambridge University, repeats constantly. «If it were any different, if I had no pleasure in playing this instrument and it no longer belonged to me, I would end my career immediately and without any regrets. However, I could not keep speaking to myself or the others, to the public that follows me, without giving them truth and emotion, without striving to give my utmost performance, at least in an experimental and metamorphic manner. It is vital to pursue that necessary twist that makes all the difference and goes beyond and crushes normality. You never stop striving to improve yourself. Since I was a child, music has never meant a profession but being able to play Beethoven’s violin concert».
Music is the feeling itself
The main focus of making music would be touching people with a sense of humanity. «Music is not grounded in an actor or character looking a certain way. A picture or painting you look at has rigidity and stillness to it. Every time you play a piece, it never comes out identically, even if it is the same. Music is defined by abstraction because there is the aspect of time one has to inhabit». He continues, «You absorb it with your body and interpret it in your mind. If you read a book or watch a theater piece, the allegories and visual metaphors help you understand the characters. Music is the feeling itself».
Charlie Siem and the fashion world
Good looking and charming. Talented, young, and sporty. Charlie is also much sought after by the fashion world. His face has appeared in specific publicity campaigns, notably Burberry, Dunhill, and Hugo Boss. For the men’s fragrance Armani Eau de Nuit in 2013, with photos taken by Inez and Vinhood. And for Dior, photographed by his friend, Karl Lagerfeld. «KL is a refined connoisseur, especially in the German repertoire», says Charlie, «his mother was a skilled amateur violinist».
He appeared in the Bruce Weber film for Dior Homme, Can I Make the Music Fly. And evidently, Charlie Siem likes fashion. A gentleman with an impeccable look, at times with a slightly dandyish tone. It is not rare to see him, as during the latest haute couture sessions in Paris in July, where he arrived with his sister and sculptor, Loulou, in the front row of the fashion shows of Chanel, Giambattista Valli or Armani Privé, and was assailed by photographers almost as much as the iconic movie star Sophia Loren, who sat next to him at the Palais de Chaillot.
the sulfurous charm of Herbert von Karajan
Charlie Siem has an easygoing yet, at the same time, contrite aura. His face has aristocratic, regular, finely designed features and inquisitive eyes of bright, undefinable color. He is friendly, pleasant, and calm but with a great sense of humor. He is not one to waste words, and the concepts he expresses are meaningful, precise, and sharp like the blade of an ancient Toledo knife. He drives a roaring orange, or relatively bright red Porsche, which he bought to satisfy an irresistible quim about one year ago.
This vice brings him close to the sulfurous charm of Herbert von Karajan, the unforgettable Austrian conductor with a mania for speed in cars, boats, and planes. Siem whizzes worldwide to deal with his growing popularity, particularly in faraway countries with a different culture, such as China, where he often performs in concerts and tournées. His physical preparation requires regular trips to the gym.
«Playing the violin unbalances you because you use only one part of the body, which is strained on the left, and this leads to the need to recover harmony and balance and work on your posture». Charlie talks about his upcoming projects and aspirations, the venues, and the music he would like to play. «At the end of the day, I must have reached a new result to be truly satisfied. Something, perhaps a detail I didn’t expect to find. The challenge I face is giving an unexpected twist to a piece of music that many before me have studied, loved, toiled with, analyzed, and played. A chiaroscuro or unprecedented point of view, full of other meanings.
You have to succeed in finding your path, manipulating the violin, and controlling the bow with staccato, vibrato, and interrupted notes. Playing the violin goes well beyond technical perfection. It is an individual matter in which you can’t but go any further and beyond certain articulations or established references. No one else can explain how your body or hands will react, and you are forced to take thousands of risks and make mistakes, if necessary».
Charlie Siens audiences and maestri
Concerning his private life, the ineffable Charlie, who is adored by the feminine public, with fans including Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, for his concentrated yet romantic aura, without forgetting the appeal of the light, heartfelt, spiritual, and poignant sound of a violin, keeps his mouth tightly shut. He smiles about it and doesn’t reveal a single comment on the many flirts with famous people that have been attributed to him. Charlie Siem was born to a cosmopolitan, very wealthy family in London on 14 January 1986. His father is a Norwegian businessman, Kristian Siem, and his mother is of South African origin, Karen Ann Moross. As a sort of minor Mozart, he already showed his natural vocation for music when he was just three.
Between the age of eight and nine, he began to train seriously. He practiced hard for at least four hours each day under the guidance of virtuous maestri such as Isaac Rashkovsky at the Royal College of Music or the famous Schlomo Mintz and top schools and seminars around the globe. At the age of just fifteen, he left on his own to Rio de Janeiro to perform with an orchestra, while three years later, he debuted in London with the Royal Philharmonic. His teachers, Rashkovsky and Mintz have become his mentors and friends.
«As a child, I had something inside my soul that I had to express. It was an aptitude, something urgent that comes from the inside, a natural gift. Of course, there is a whole ritual of learning and fine-tuning the technique, which you must master to perfection and the necessary physical training. It may seem strange, but there are no forerunners throughout my family history, apart from the distant ancestry of the Norwegian violinist and composer Ole Bull. Nor can it be said that I had any particular predisposition for musical culture, although I must admit that my mother listened to a lot of classical music. Our family was made up of lawyers and businesspeople, but evidently, the creative streak had to prevail. I’m a musician, and my three sisters, with all of whom have a very deep, unique, and personal relationship, are linked to the world of art or music in different ways».
Monteverdi ‘Pur ti miro, Pur ti Godo’
Charlie has decided to make his old dream come true and spend extended periods in Italy, more notably in Florence. «Like many young people who have been educated in England, Italy is a much-desired destination, a place, and a dream, perhaps more envisioned than real. It is the Country of the Renaissance, of the divine Claudio Monteverdi» – Siem’s performance at the London Science Museum of London of the piece by Monteverdi ‘Pur ti miro, Pur ti Godo’ from the ‘Incoronazione di Poppea’ for an event entitled Beyond the Stars to celebrate the 450th anniversary of the birth of the composer from Cremona was quite memorable.
«It’s the homeland of Paganini and Rossini, of the ‘bel canto’, of the ‘Camerata de’Bardi,’ which invented opera singing in the Baroque age in the Medicean city. It is also a sublime culture of food and wine and symbolizes the ever-present, sensual and fascinating lifestyle known as ‘Dolce vita’. As a child, I spent a long part of my summer holidays in Spoleto, where I was a guest at the home of the photographer Derry Moore. I wanted to get back that joie de vivre, that disregard and slightly subversive bohemian liberty of which I have very fond memories. I believe Italy will help me discover myself, break the mold, free myself, and become independent of so many contrived circumstances and superstructures that are now perhaps useless or no longer necessary for my life and career as a musician».
Note from the Editorial Team: Violin virtuoso Charlie Siem debuts with new album
When he was just three years old, violinist Charlie Siem heard something that would change his life: a concerto by Beethoven, which inspired him to pursue a career in music. Now one of classical music’s biggest stars, the virtuoso is paying homage to the master with his new album Beethoven: Violin Concerto Romances, performed with the Philharmonia Orchestra and conducted by Oleg Caetani. Featuring five tracks of Beethoven’s greatest pieces, the album is one of Siem’s most ambitious and challenging works yet, which he accomplishes with the trained ear, technical prowess, intuition and charisma that have become his hallmark. Beethoven: Violin Concerto Romances (Signum) debuts August 5, 2022 and will be available in stores, online and on global streaming platforms.
Siem’s Beethoven: violin concerto romances
The album, his first conceived since the pandemic, bears a deep personal connection for Siem, who notes, «It was the first piece I heard that inspired me to play the violin. I wanted to be able to play that piece in particular as it had opened a channel within my imagination that has stayed with me as a constant soundtrack to my journey since then. To be able to share my humble response to this mighty piece of music is incredibly rewarding».
Siem’s last two albums, Between the Clouds and Under the Stars, became breakout successes owed to the artist’s crossover appeal. Though deeply rooted in classical music, both works extended his global fanbase and attracted a younger audience to the genre. Siem is one of several musicians credited for expanding the reach of the art form.
«Charlie is hands-down one of the leading musicians of any age in the world, and we remain proud to be his creative home,” says Steve Long, director of Signum Records. “His interpretation of Beethoven’s Concerto is a real personal achievement for him, and it is an exquisite demonstration of his technical proficiency and passion that should delight classical music fans and Charlie’s growing fan base of new listeners».
Born in London on 14 January 1986, Siem is an English contemporary classical violinist and model. Photography Michael Avedon, Styling Sabrina Bolzoni Creative Direction Alexander Beckoven, Hair Alessandro Squarza @FacetoFace, Hair and Make-Up Assistant Giovanna Angarola, Post-Production Laura Baiardini