The Strad Issue: January 2011
Description: Incisive playing and rare repertoire combine to make a highly desirable release
Musicians: Charlie Siem (violin) London Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Gourlay
Composer: Wieniawski, Bruch, Bull

Unashamedly presented as a promotional vehicle for Charlie Siem, Warner’s current young violinist of choice, this disc nonetheless contains some interesting music. Framing the ubiquitous Bruch is Wieniawski’s supremely difficult First Concerto and a work by Norwegian virtuoso Ole Bull, whose music is seeing something of a resurgence. The playing of this Cambridge graduate and former Guildhall student is well suited to such repertoire, and his accuracy in the Wieniawski in particular suggests an exciting career ahead.
The Bull especially is dramatically captured. Elsewhere, though, Siem’s love of well-articulated bow strokes and a highly assertive E string tone can overpower and become rather harsh, as in the first movement of the Wieniawski, for instance. But the Bruch, given a more-or-less standard reading, is blessed with a very immediate quality to the sound. In the slow movement Siem avoids the often dragged-out and maudlin effect visited upon it by many players, and both he and the orchestra keep a good sense of melodic line, which is commendable.
On balance, this is a well-groomed disc with some admirable playing, and its value lies both in revealing a soloist with great promise, and in its interesting mixture of Romantic repertoire. The recording quality is good, if rather too closely miked at times, notably in the case of solo wind entries throughout the Bruch.

David Milsom