Tucking back into Bach | Charlie Siem

MaltaToday speaks to the young violinist Charlie Siem ahead of his participation at the Valletta International Baroque Festival with ‘Charlie’s Baroque Angels’ – a showcase of works by Johann Sebastian Bach

Given the degree of success you've achieved at such a young age, one wonders what in fact your artistic origins were. At what point in your life did you decide that music would be your path in life, and how did you set about making a career path out of it?

Music affected me at a very young age in an emotional way mostly. I didn’t imagine I would have a career in it early on, but knew that it was a fundamental part of me. Planning a career is something I’ve never been good at and have taken opportunities that have presented themselves over the years mostly out of gratitude for them being there! Not always the best path... and I find I’m now more discerning, but I think starting with an open mind hasn’t been such a bad thing, as I’ve learnt a lot in the process.

Who were some of the most instrumental figures in your musical development, and how did they help you shape the musical direction you eventually took?

Shlomo Mintz was a big influence, as his playing is so visceral and powerful. Spending time and studying with him had a profound effect on my own playing. Ida Haendal was also a great inspiration and I got to know her quite well in my teens – another remarkable musician and violinist.

What kind of role does Bach play in your musical universe, and how do you hope to channel his influence and legacy in your upcoming Valletta International Baroque Festival concert, ‘Charlie’s Baroque Angels’?

The solo Bach sonatas and Partitas are like the Bible for a violinist. You spend your life playing and interpreting them. The music is so profound and challenging in many ways. I am really looking forward to this concert as it has given me the opportunity to explore these two works in greater depth and performing them in a sacred space is special.

What do you make of the Valletta International Baroque Festival? How would you say it compares to other international festivals you have participated in, and what do you make of the musical environment of Malta in general?

Malta holds a special place for me as I have played there a few times and knowing [VIBF Artistic Director] Kenneth Zammit Tabona as I do, it feels like home turf, which is an added dimension. The festival is renowned and I see many great artists are coming, so it is a pleasure to get a chance to form part of it once again.