Classical Album of the Week

Classical Album of the Week

This week’s TIDAL Classical Album is a truly special one that we’ve been looking forward to presenting for long time.

Here siblings Mari and Hakon Samuelsen play music by, among others, American superstar composer James Horner, known for writing the scores to Titanic, Braveheart, Avatar and many more Hollywood classics.

The album was pre-released in Norway last week, resulting in #1 chart position on the Norwegian pop charts – the first time for a classical album in 20 years.

I had a chat with the two young, innovative and hyper-musical Samuelsen siblings, proving they have a lot of wise words to share.

I have met the string-playing brother and sister before, and every time has made me happy and hopeful for the future of classical music. With a large digital music consumption, an active social media strategy and an openness on stage, they are a model for a classical act in the 21st century.

First and foremost, Mari and Hakon Samuelsen are two musicians with their hearts in the right place and with the music always in focus.

They are constantly looking forward and working to renew the music, the concepts and the concert form itself. And their excitement is no less when they talk about the new album and collaborating with James Horner. Not many minutes into our conversation, we are talking about all of the above.

How do you see the current state of classical music, and where do you fit in?

Hakon: I will be careful to say that there may be some who have been sleeping in relation to doing things in a new way. A concert series should include the large, heavy classic pieces by Beethoven, Brahms and Mahler, but at the same time there’s no doubt there has been a reluctancy from the business in terms of being commercial and accessible. And if you are, you might still be judged as if you’re not serious.

Mari: I also believe the [classical music business] is somewhat divided on this issue. On one side, enough people know they have to communicate to a wider and younger audience and talk on a different level than opus- and movement-numbers—terms that very few people on the street would know about. It’s a rather conservative industry, where you scarcely speak of tracks and 3:20 minutes hits. On the other side though, there is definitely room to talk about these things and communicate the music we love and cherish in a different way. This is one of the things we try to do.

How did you first meet James Horner?

Mari: We played at a private concert at some friends’ house, where James had also been invited, but after three hours, he had not yet arrived and we did not expect to see him. But eventually he showed up and I thought: ‘Well it’s now or never…’ I simply got up to him and asked if he would consider writing a piece for Hakon and myself and he responded to my great surprise: ‘Yes; I would love to!’. And I had no idea what I had to say next.”

How is he to work with?

Mari: The cooperation has been fantastic and we have felt included throughout the whole composition and recording process. He has been consulting us and therefore it has also taken incredibly long time to finish it, but a wonderful long time.

Hakon: We have known James for many years now, and it has been a long process making the album, but it has been worth every minute. James has a musical language which many know from his film scores, and we have always loved his music, which is why we were so eager to work with him. In the very beginning we were invited to Abbey Road Studios to listen to his music and see how he worked. And here we got an insight into an incredibly hardworking, somewhat private and introverted man who gets up at 4 a.m. and works late into the night.

I imagine being siblings as well as being colleagues requires respect for each other’s skills and differences.

Mari: Yes, it really does and this is exactly what I think is our strength. The fact that we know each other so well, but also have a very different nature, is reflected both in our way of making music and how we work together.

What is it that drives you and gives you energy?

Hakon: Well, the basic element is of course that we love music; that’s the daily inspiration. But it’s also the fact that we have already done so many big projects, met famous colleagues, been on international festivals—things we really never thought we would get to do. Our annual Christmas concert, for example, which is now televised internationally, was something that we might have dreamed about, but never believed would happen. So it is also a driving force for us to think new and big all the time.

Mari: Yes, to be innovative and constantly looking ahead and for something new and fresh! We have also been met with some skepticism over the years. But from the concerts and projects we have done, and what’s coming up in the future, we can see we have made the right choices.

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Enjoy this week’s classical album! And remember that if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at morten.ernst.lassen@tidal.com.

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