Review / Siem’s violin skills own the stage

Music / Charlie Siem. James O Fairfax Theatre, NGA. March 26. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY

THIS program consisted of the “Violin Sonata No.3” by Grieg, “the Spring Sonata” by Beethoven, “Sonata No.3” by Eugene Ysaye, “Nigun from Baal Sheem suite”, by Bloch, and the “Polonaise Brillante No. 2”, by Henryk Wieniawski.

Charlie Siem, photo Sittende Farger

Charlie Siem gets a lot written about him, and with good reason. When you begin to learn the violin at the age of three and master it the way Siem has, you can expect most of that writing to be positive and glowing.

Siem owns the stage. He makes his presence felt from the moment he steps out, and with every stomp of his foot at poignant moments. He stands centre stage ready to attack, and you can feel the presence of a performer who has a great respect for and knowledge of the music he plays.

His stylish presentation leaves you in no doubt that you are about the hear something extraordinary. In his tailored burgundy suit, he could have easily opened for the Beatles in the 60s. The quality of tone Siem produces from his 1735 Guarneri del Gesu violin is something every classical music lover should hear.

The concert began with the Grieg sonata. It’s a playful work where the violin and piano mirror one another. In this piece, we got to hear the full range of that clear, powerful singing voice of his violin.

Watching Siem, you sometimes get the feeling that he appears not to be there. But, it’s never reflected in his music. He is always on note.

Beethoven’s theme and variations in his “Spring Sonata” sit right at home in the ear. The pianist, Ying Ho, seemed to have a particular affinity for the Beethoven. She handled this piece exceptionally well.

After the interval, the Sonata No. 3 by Yasye plays. It’s a piece that stands alone. Performed solo by Siem, the speed and difficulty of the work make it unique. It has a highly charged dynamic quality that uses every note of the violin.

Bloch’s work was next. From the moment it opens, it leaves you in no doubt that you are in for a dark and brooding time. It’s anguished and bad dream like qualities fitted in well with Siem’s stage presence. An appropriate piece for him.

The last work by Wieniawski showed just how well Siem and Ho work together. Ho’s experience as a pianist crosses continents. She studied at the Royal Academy of London and is currently completing her Doctor of Musical Arts at Sydney Conservatorium. In this piece, they blended their sounds to produce a lively and passionate finale.

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