Kindred spirit – Mari Samuelsen

A fearless musical adventurer, Mari Samuelsen is an ideal partner for the Baltic Sea Philharmonic on its ‘Midnight Sun’ tour

‘Midnight Sun’ will be Mari Samuelsen’s second time performing with the Baltic Sea Philharmonic, though not with Kristjan Järvi, whom she has collaborated regularly with in the last few years. The Norwegian violinist and the Estonian-born conductor are in many ways kindred spirits, sharing innovative approaches to repertoire, performance presentation, and audience development.

Mari first performed Kristjan’s Aurora in 2016, in a version for violin, cello and orchestra, with her brother Håkon as cello soloist and Kristjan conducting. She describes the piece as ‘like a journey into space. You have the feeling you’re floating out among the stars and the planets. There’s a wonderful drive, a very positive energy in the music.’ Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, another solo feature of Mari in ‘Midnight Sun’, is a piece she has been performing for many years, both with small and large ensembles, and also with piano. ‘Fratres is a work I feel very close to,’ she says. ‘It’s under my skin.’

One area where Mari shares Kristjan’s sensibilities is in giving audiences a new experience through innovative presentation. Her performances at Berlin’s Yellow Lounge classical club concerts introduced her to projection artist Philipp Geist, who is Yellow Lounge’s resident VJ when he’s not creating his own projects and installations around the world. Mari, in turn, introduced Philipp to Kristjan, and Philipp joined the Sunbeam Productions team that created the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s spectacularly immersive ‘Waterworks’. ‘I love going to a church to listen to solo Bach,’ says Mari, ‘but giving audiences a big multisensory experience, with visuals as well as music, can be just as moving, and has a deep impact.’

Having followed the exploits of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic, Mari is excited to join the orchestra for its ‘Midnight Sun’ tour. ‘At a time when even big orchestras are cutting back on their touring, it’s a fantastic opportunity for these young players to go out and present music from their home region, and to take it far and wide,’ she says. ‘People are hungry to learn more about the Nordic character, and the Baltic Sea Philharmonic communicates that so well.’

Norwegian violinist Mari Samuelsen has enjoyed a remarkable rise on the international concert stage. Her performances combine a breathtaking musical finesse and virtuosity with an imaginative and innovative approach to presentation.

Mari has appeared as soloist at some of the world’s most prestigious venues, including Carnegie Hall in New York, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, the Berlin Konzerthaus, Smetana Hall in Prague, and the Victoria Hall in Geneva. In August 2016 she made her debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, and in June 2017 performed at the opening of the Montreux Jazz Festival. Mari works regularly with the composer Max Richter, and has performed as soloist in concert performances of both his ‘Recomposed’ and ‘Memoryhouse’, as well as on his recent Deutsche Grammophon album ‘Three Worlds: Music from Woolf Works’.

For more than 25 years Mari has also performed in a duo with her brother, cellist Håkon Samuelsen, connecting with audiences and musicians around the world. In spring 2015 they released their debut album ‘Pas de Deux’ on Mercury/Decca (Universal), the centrepiece of which was a new work written for them by the Oscar-winning composer, the late James Horner. It went straight to No. 1 in the Norwegian pop charts, the first classical album to do so in more than 20 years.

Mari has also been artistic director of Yellow Lounge in Norway, and in bringing the Berlin-born club night to Oslo, she has collaborated with partners such as the pre-eminent video artist Philipp Geist. Mari’s latest album, ‘Nordic Noir’, was released by Decca in September 2017. Her upcoming and ongoing collaborations with leading composers of today, as well as with electronic music artists such as Jeff Mills and Dubfire, mark Mari out as an innovative musician who is passionate about reaching out to new audiences.