Tiny Desk

Charlie Siem

Download Audio

Charlie Siem: Tiny Desk Concert

Charlie Siem is, literally, the very model of a modern major violin star. At just 25, he's already appeared on the world's great concert stages, as well as the pages of Italian Men's Vogue magazine. He's also the 2011 spokesman for Dunhill, the men's fashion house. For his Tiny Desk Concert appearance, you could say Siem dressed "casual, but with an understated elegance," right down to his left-hand pinky, with its pink-painted fingernail.

When he was 3, Siem heard the great violinist Yehudi Menuhin play Beethoven's Violin Concerto. That was all it took to inspire him to pursue the violin. Siem studied at Eton and the Royal College of Music, and now he plays one of Menuhin's old violins — a stunning 1735 Guarneri del Gesu.

As it turns out, fiddling runs in the family. Siem recently discovered that he's related to the 19th-century Norwegian violin virtuoso and composer Ole Bull. Fittingly, Siem started off his Tiny Desk show with Bull's bucolic Cantabile. But then the fireworks began. Paganini's Variations on "Nel Cor Piu" (an aria from a now-forgotten Paisiello opera), contains a grab bag full of violin special effects. Watch Siem as he tosses off the left-hand pizzicato, double-stop harmonics and spiccato bowing as if he were buttering bread. I'm confident that many of my colleagues gathered to hear Siem had never witnessed playing on that level. I saw a few jaws tilted toward the floor.

Siem ended with another nod to past violin virtuosos — a charming little waltz, "Old Vienna," by Leopold Godowski, in an arrangement by the incomparable Jascha Heifetz. With playing this vigorous, technically strong and thoughtful, the young Charlie Siem should be guaranteed a considerable career. Along the way, his sense of style and good looks won't hurt.

Set List

  • Ole Bull: Cantabile
  • Paganini: Introduction and Variations on Paisiello's "Nel Cor Piu"
  • Godowsky: Alt Wien (arr. Heifetz)

Credits

Filmed and edited by Michael Katzif; audio by Kevin Wait; photo by Mito Habe-Evans

[+] read more[-] less

More From Tiny Desk

Maggie Starbard/NPR

Tiny Desk

Young Fathers

Intense, hip-hop-infused poetry is reduced to just the essentials in this two-song, four-minute set.

Maggie Starbard/NPR

Tiny Desk

Camané

A star in his native Portugal, Camané evokes melancholy with a silky baritone and elegant phrasing.

Morgan McCloy/NPR

Tiny Desk

Bellows

These are enchanting songs, with the power to drift in your head for days.

Morgan McCloy/NPR

Tiny Desk

Eskmo

Found objects are percussion instruments in the hands of a man who's part musician, part magician.

Vijay Iyer Trio performs a Tiny Desk Concert on April 20, 2015. Olivia Merrion/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Olivia Merrion/NPR

Tiny Desk

Vijay Iyer Trio

Iyer's working band transforms selections from throughout the pianist's deep and varied catalog.

Tiny Desk Concert with José González. NPR hide caption

itoggle caption NPR

Tiny Desk

José González

This soft-spoken Swedish singer left an imprint at the Tiny Desk that was gentle and long lasting.

Colin Marshall /NPR

Tiny Desk

DakhaBrakha

The Ukrainian acoustic quartet's music encompasses sounds and rhythms from around the world.

Back To Top