Plenty of grit in this unusual sonata programme

Charlie Siem: Vaughan Williams

The Strad Issue: June 2023

Description: Plenty of grit in this unusual sonata programme

Musicians: Charlie Siem (violin) Itamar Golan (piano)

Works: Vaughan Williams: Violin Sonata in A minor. Grieg: Violin Sonata no.2 in G major op.13

Catalogue number: SIGNUM SIGCD734

Charlie Siem takes a firm hold of the first movement of Vaughan Williams’s Violin Sonata (his final major work), his tone full and firm without undue warmth when the composer wants him to be loud, which is a lot of the time, while being more pliant and nuanced in the quiet passages. His playing is wild and assertive in the Scherzo, punching out the asymmetrical accents – just as well, as they are fully explained in Ateş Orga’s booklet notes (in which he memorably describes the movement as a ‘horse fair’) – the double-stops lent a gritty, Prokofievian strength and determination. In the final theme and variations Siem conjures various voices, distant and affecting in the quiet cantabile variations, contrasting with a muscularity in Vaughan Williams’s forceful double- and triple-stops. Itamar Golan matches him in assertiveness and power.

In the first movement of Grieg’s Second Violin Sonata Siem brings a melancholy tinge to the expressive melodies and exults in the joyful dances, albeit with scant regard for the recurring semiquaver rests. There is a gentle, expressive beauty to his Allegretto tranquillo, with its folk-like melody at once simple and subtle, alternating with passages of sparkling rhythmic agility. In the Allegro animato Siem mixes elfin lightness with rhythmic drive, setting the seal on a characterful performance. The recording is relatively close.