The Sunday Playlist: Charlie Siem shares his top 10 tracks
The English model and contemporary classical violinist reveals his favourite music — From Mahler to Miles Davis to Matt Monro
Charlie Siem is no stranger to the musical arts. In fact, the part-time model is a full-time musician — having graduated from Eton College and played his first concerto with the Royal Philharmonic by the time he turned 18-years-old. He’s even been playing throughout the pandemic — and will be performing, on March 5th, to close Only Stage’s All About Bach! Festival.
Professionally, Siem has played solos with countless orchestras and classical outfits — but also contemporary artists such as The Who and Miley Cyrus. He even counts Lady Gaga and Katy Perry among his fans. This eclectic musical mix is reflected in his Sunday Playlist, which includes its fair share of Bach and Brahms — but also dabbles with Nirvana…
When do you usually listen to music?
I always listen to music, usually from the moment I wake up. And it’s a whole range of stuff. But I like to create a theatrical start to my day, to remind me that it’s up to me to set the tone of what will happen — rather than being a victim of chance.
What was the last song you listened to?
That would be the Bach transcriptions, arranged by Leopold Stokowski, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen and played by the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Spotify or vinyl? What was the last album you bought?
I haven’t bought anything for as long as I can remember — I only stream these days, I guess…
What is your favourite workout song?
That very much depends on my mood. Sometimes, it could be IAM — a a French hip hop band from the 1990s — or it could be the Mozart Requiem.
What do you listen to when you want to relax?
Usually some form of jazz — such as saxophonist Stan Getz or pianist Oscar Peterson. Or, of course, Miles Davis.
Which other instrument would you like to learn to play?
I’d quite like to play the piano better than I do.
What’s your favourite lyric?
I think it would have to be “In the windmills of your mind…”, sung by Noel Harrison in The Thomas Crown Affair.
When was the last time a musical experience gave you goosebumps?
Just this morning, when I was listening to Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 4.
Charlie Siem’s Weekend Playlist
The final movement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 10 (Deryck Cooke completion). Since it was unfinished — and Mahler is already charged with abstract searching — I find that this always reveals just the most tragic-yet-hopeful melody. It transports me every time I hear it.
The Hungarian Dances by Brahms (for orchestra). This set of 21 tunes, based mostly on Hungarian themes, are so brilliant. They’ve got such a rich musicality — that is both uplifting and soulful.
Bach’s Goldberg Variations. The purity and depth of this work is simply spellbinding. It reorganises the energy in whichever space I hear it — and always leaves me in a simpler, more conscious state.
Sketches of Spain, by Miles Davis. I remember this being part of the soundtrack to a play I was involved with at school. And, having discovered Miles Davis at that time, I now always refer back to his improvisational genius — especially in this familiar musical language of Spain.
Smells Like Teen Spirit, by Nirvana. I discovered Nirvana relatively late — despite having grown up in the 90s. But I’ve connected to Kurt Cobain’s rasping voice and rough guitar, as it expresses an intoxicating mix of both angst and power.
Bach’s St Matthew Passion. Unbelievably grand and majestic, this is golden music — and feels like it understands a universal human need for drama and compassion.
The Stokowski Transcription of Bach’s Chaconne for Orchestra. This iconic work, originally written for solo violin, is magnificently arranged for full orchestra and becomes overwhelming in its scale and depth.
Overture to Wagner’s Das Rheingold. Despite not being a fan of Wagner’s odious character, I can’t help being moved by much of his music. This beginning to The Ring Cycle of operas is hypnotic in its build up — and scarily rousing as it winds up and up without modulation.
On Days Like These, by Matt Monro. The song that plays over the opening scene of The Italian Job, this always puts a smile on my face — and encapsulates the glamour and free-spiritedness I’m always searching for.
Millennium, by Joachim Pastor. This is a very cool and slightly dark exploration in electronic sound. It may be trance-inducing — but it’s also a mellow and thoroughly satisfying listen.
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