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Violinist rues decline in musical education

Video: Mark Zammit Cordina

The declining attention to musical education in schools is “a great sadness”, hurting children’s chances of appreciating and engaging with great classical music, according to acclaimed British violinist Charlie Siem.

“I think there are more people than we know with a capacity to enjoy classical music. If there’s some sort of musical education early on, that makes a big difference,” Mr Siem told the Times of Malta. “If children are exposed to classical music early, there’s a bigger chance they’ll come back to it later on.”

If the world of classical music, as it is probably safe to say, is not considered the sexiest, Mr Siem is doing his best to change that. Still only 30 years old, he is already one of the most renowned classical violinists in the world. But he has also collaborated with popular artists, including Bryan Adams and The Who, and made a name for himself in the world of fashion, where he was the face of the latest Hugo Boss global advertising campaign.

“One always perceives a very solid wall between genres, especially classical music, which is seen as an elitist art form that keeps itself to itself,” Mr Siem said. He is on his second visit to Malta after having performed with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra in 2014.

“The classical music world itself is also very judgemental: when someone does something out of the ordinary they’re very quick to cast that person aside. But, from my perspective, if you’re a young person in today’s world, you just have to think about being a musician and how to communicate with people.”

The violinist is adamant that classical music should be enjoyed by a wider audience – and he says using social media to get the music out there, for free if needs be, is part of that – but he concedes that this type of music demands more of its audience than more popular styles. “You can’t expect to just sit down and get instant satisfaction, like with a Lady Gaga song,” he said. “Everything today is immediate and classical music isn’t. You need to be in a state of mind where you can follow these waves of music, these incredible climaxes, these macabre marches.

“You don’t necessarily need a knowledge of the music but you need to have within yourself a patience and a real desire to meet the music halfway,” he said.

Mr Siem, accompanied by pianist Julian Dyson, will be performing at the Manoel Theatre, in Valletta this evening at 8pm (pre-recital talk at 7.15pm). More information from www.teatrumanoel.com.mt.

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