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Mari Samuelsen
Mari Samuelsen

Mari Samuelsen announces her new album – LIFE

Samuelsen Life

Rich in contemporary colour and contrast, LIFE Mari Samuelsen’s third album for Deutsche Grammophon – is inspired by her experience of becoming a mother. Known for her vibrant and imaginative programming as well as her passionate and virtuosic playing, the Norwegian violinist has created a kaleidoscopic musical reflection of some of the emotional discoveries that come with parenthood. The album presents music by Olivia Belli, Bryce Dessner, Ludovico Einaudi, Nils Frahm, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Mário Laginha, Hania Rani, Max Richter and Steve Reich, with a dash of Schubert also thrown into the mix. Samuelsen was joined at Teldex Studios in Berlin last autumn by a small group of fellow musicians, including the string players of Scoring Berlin, conducted by Jonathan Stockhammer. LIFE comes out digitally and on vinyl on 30 August 2024. Three singles will be issued in the run-up to the album release: Olivia Belli’s Sapias on 24 May, Nils Frahm’s Hammers on 21 June and Bryce Dessner’s Song for Octave on 2 August.

The initial idea for LIFE came to Mari Samuelsen around the time her first child was born, and she recorded the album while pregnant with her second. Welcoming new life into the world has inevitably brought an additional dimension to her own existence. “Having a child takes away layers of artifice,” she explains. “Getting to know a tiny new human being is fantastic; seeing their reactions to everything: how they start to communicate, how they react to surprises, to light, to smiles – for the very first time in their life. I wanted to put a sound to that: love, happiness, curiosity…”

The album begins with Cambridge, 1963 from Jóhann Jóhannsson’s soundtrack to The Theory of Everything (arranged for solo violin and ensemble by Max Knoth). Having children, Samuelsen says, has been an eye-opening  experience: “it’s like seeing the light for the first time, and that’s what Jóhannsson’s piece is to me”.

Olivia Belli’s similarly uplifting Sapias was written specifically for LIFE, the result of long discussions between violinist and composer. “I wanted to create the sound of an embrace, and I think Olivia captured that beautifully,” notes Samuelsen. She will give the world premiere of Sapias (and perform other works from the new album) with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra at the National Concert Hall in Dublin on 16 August 2024.

The sole exception to LIFE’s contemporary programme is the fourth movement of Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet. Samuelsen chose to include it because it evokes happy memories of her own childhood – including those of making music: “I can’t remember a life without the violin”.

She was keen to represent both the light and the shade of new parenthood. “What becomes apparent is the hard contrasts that a day can have: extreme happiness and positivity can break into brutality, tantrums and rebellion – and then in the next moment, go back to purity and beauty.” Speaking about Nils Frahm’s Hammers (arr. Knoth), she says “It was important for me to have restless pieces, where you don’t feel any peace and quiet”.

There are contrasting musical dialogues in Mário Laginha’s Coisas da Terra (with pianist Julien Quentin) and Steve Reich’s Duet (with fellow violinist Soyoung Yoon) – the former harmonious, the latter less so, at least to begin with: “you never know which side is actually right, but they are together in the end”. The powerful melodic violin line of Max Richter’s She Remembers (from HBO series The Leftovers), meanwhile, suggests to Samuelsen a certain loneliness, “having this pure melodic violin line shining above everyone else”. Peace reigns again, however, by the end of the album, which concludes with a new arrangement of Bryce Dessner’s lullaby for his own young son, Song for Octave.

The sheer beauty of Mari Samuelsen’s playing is the thread that runs through all eleven tracks. She hopes LIFE will speak to many listeners, whether by stirring childhood memories or by chiming with emotions they have experienced as new parents, watching a child discover the world. “I play music because I want to tell stories,” she says. “While these stories are personal, I want them to be relatable for as many people as possible.”

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