This handsome and talented violinist first came to Malta in October 2014 for the opening concert of the Manoel Theatre. He won our hearts and this year, when he returned last month, the theatre was filled to the Gods. I must immediately mention his accompanist Julian Dyson, a most accomplished pianist in his own right. He is now living in Malta and I would love to attend a piano recital by him. He has performed in many countries.
Charlie Siem, blessed in every way, wore a wine-coloured beautifully cut suit with black trimmings and a Nehru/mandarin collar and what looked like black slippers or slip-ons, similar to those sadly abandoned by the present pope but worn by previous ones, only Charlie's were not Cardinal red but black. Once you are on the stage you are there to entertain and yes, what you wear is also important to the audience. He owes his good looks to a Norwegian father and a British mother and his snob value to Eton and Cambridge. He told us in the course of the concert that he is also related to the Norwegian composer Ole Bull one of whose works was on the programme that evening.
One wonders why we enjoy music; why some music in particular and some not at all. Music creates in our minds and emotions mists and labyrinths we can barely understand. Why is it that when I listen to Liszt's Consolation No 3 in D Flat Major, Chopin's Nocturne in C sharp minor they touch the deepest area in my soul. The latter, was unforgettably, played in The Pianist by Holocaust survivor Natalia Karp for the Nazi concentration camp commandant Amon Goeth, with Goeth being so impressed with the rendition, that he spared Karp's life. (I must have watched this film five times at least). I find that whether a piece of music touches us or not is very personal. Listening to some music we are lost in a world of delight - sometimes a world of sadness and nostalgia - which is quite overwhelming. There is no explanation why one piece gives me pleasure while others do not. My heart glows with gratitude to some composers and the artists who interpret these pieces. I am mesmerized by Verdi's Carmen and La Traviata but I cannot give rhyme or reason for my intense rapture. Although I am a great lover of literature and art however there is something not merely intellectual about music. It seems to be also physical in its power. There is a visceral impact. Each instrument is capable of stirring a wide variety of strong emotions but my favourite instruments are the harp, the piano and the violin. All can have overwhelming pathos and can pierce the heart.
For me the revelation of at evening at the Manoel was the discovery of the Norwegian composer Ole Bull (1810-1880) to whom Charlie Siem told us, he is related. I had never heard of him and I am always somewhat suspicious of composers which are not established. But what a beautiful piece his Cantabile doloroso e Rondo giocoso turned out to be. I have not stopped listening to it on You tube where it is played by the stylish Charlie.
The first piece on the programme was Beethoven's Sonata for violin and piano No 9 in A major - known as the Kreutzer. Leo Tolstoy wrote a novella named after this sonata which was published in 1889 and censored by the Russian authorities. Beethoven dedicated his sonata to Rodolphe Kreutzer considered the finest violinist of the day. Kreutzer never in fact played the Sonata named after him and never really cared for Beethoven's music.
It was an excellent start to the recital and violinist and pianist played effortlessly together and gave us a spontanteous and fresh performance. They were enjoying themselves too.
Next came Grieg's Sonata for violin and piano No 3 in C minor. Grieg is Norway's, most famous musical son, although the Scots could lay claim to him being one of their own because his Scottish great-grandfather emigrated to Scandinavia after the Battle of Culloden. Ravel said that, other than Debussy, there was 'no composer to whom I feel a closer affinity.' Throughout his life Grieg performed as a concert pianist. He was adored by the peope of Norway and on the day of his funeral, up to 40,000 people lined the streets to pay their respects.
In this piece too, the violinist was very well supported by Julian Dyson. This was no easy piece to play for either of them. It seems to me that Grieg tried to paint a palette of colours with his harmonious melodies in this composition. Julian and Charlie have an enviable rapport and play 'generously' and made me fall in love with this piece.
The musicians gave us two encores - very generous of them considering it was a demanding programme as it is; two well-loved pieces: Zigeunerweisen by Pablo de Sarasate and Liebesleid by Fritz Kreisler. I love Sarasate's sultry and dashing gypsy confection with rich timbre, languorous ardour and a dazzling display of fireworks at the close. Absolutely splendid as was Liebesleid which we all love.
Here is an anecdote about Sergei Rachmaninov and Fritz Kreisler. They were giving a recital in New York, Rachmaninov on the piano and Kreisler on the violin. The latter was in a muddle about where he'd got to in the music. Panic-stricken, he whispered to the pianist, 'Where are we?' The whispered reply came back from Rachmaninov: 'Carnegie Hall.'
This was a truly splendid evening. Please bring this gifted duo back to the Manoel as soon as possible. Engage them right away.
Understanding China training workshop
I have been asked to place the following on my diary page and here it is:
The Maltese-Chinese Chamber of Commerce (MCCC) is dedicated to helping business cooperation and investment between Malta & China. If anyone is interested in taking part in some workshops "Understanding China" , please contact MCCC through its website or Facebook page for details.