Mari Samuelsen

Mari

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Violinist Mari Samuelsen is best known for her duo albums and performances with her brother Håkon, and it is perhaps for this reason that Mari, her debut album for Deutsche Grammophon, is quite ambitious in its concept. The notes speak of such ideas as immersion in nature, but what's actually happening here is that Samuelsen has taken an unusually broad view of the music known as minimalism, noting that by now it is arguably the dominant musical style, and as such, has developed quite a number of variants. Philip Glass is represented by a couple of pieces, as is the current star of the music, Max Richter, but there are also lesser-known composers like the mystical Peteris Vasks, and Christian Badzura, who is the head of new music at Deutsche Grammophon. Brian Eno is also present. Some of the music is arranged for solo violin or violin and orchestra, which is well within the bounds of minimalist practice. Samuelsen's most daring move is to link Bach with the minimalist tradition; she is not the first to make this connection, but her linkage is the most extreme. Listeners will have to decide for themselves whether the mighty Chaconne from the Partita in D minor for solo violin, BWV 1004, breaks the mood. Even if the answer is in the affirmative, Samuelsen's performance of this piece is brilliant and thrilling (sample this). Further, it points to one of the central tensions of the album, one that Samuelsen has already explored in earlier performances: minimalism in its original incarnation was not a virtuoso music, but it is developing a virtuoso side as it grows. Samuelsen's exploration of this idea is absorbing even if you do not follow her through two CDs worth of music. Recommended, and highly accessible to anybody.

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