Mari Samuelsen - Biography
In Mari Samuelsen’s musical universe there are no barriers between the music of such contemporary composers as Max Richter, Arvo Pärt, Pēteris Vasks and Jeff Mills and that of Bach, Beethoven and Vivaldi. With her breathtaking artistry and adventurous approach to programming and presentation, Samuelsen has inspired a global audience. The Norwegian violinist’s emotionally charged style of playing, backed by an immaculate technique and searching intelligence, penetrates deep beneath the surface of her strikingly broad repertoire.
Her recent work includes collaborations with electronic music artists Jeff Mills and Dubfire and multimedia artist Philipp Geist, and ground-breaking explorations of contemporary art and classical music as artistic director of Oslo’s Yellow Lounge for its first two seasons. “I’ve always felt an urge not to do what’s traditionally expected,” she notes. “My aim is to create new and innovative programmes for music lovers – regardless of genre.”
Mari Samuelsen signed an exclusive agreement with Deutsche Grammophon in January 2019. She is set to reach a new audience with MARI, her debut recording for the Yellow Label. The double-disc album, which will be simultaneously released on CD and LP in June 2019, presents a meditation on the contrasts between the thrills of today’s fast-paced, technology-driven urban lifestyles and the need so many of us feel to slow down and enjoy the stillness of the natural world and its untamed landscapes. From the starting points of the Chaconne from J.S. Bach’s Partita No.2 in D minor for solo violin and “Knee Play 2” from Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach, the album’s tracklist – which also includes compositions by Brian Eno, Max Richter, Jóhann Jóhannsson and Peter Gregson – developed over the course of eighteen months to create what Samuelsen describes as “a moment of flow”.
Born in 1984 in the town of Hamar, which lies south of the Olympic city of Lillehammer, on the shores of Norway’s largest lake, Mari Samuelsen was raised on the family farm. She received her first violin lessons at the age of three and continued her studies with Arve Tellefsen. From an early age she performed with her cellist brother Håkon, with whom she later made duo appearances around the world. At the age of 14 Mari enrolled at Oslo’s prestigious Barratt Due Institute of Music, and she later continued her studies for nearly a decade with Professor Zakhar Bron at the University of the Arts in Zurich.
Now in demand worldwide as concerto soloist and recitalist, Mari Samuelsen has performed at such leading venues as New York’s Carnegie Hall, the Paris Philharmonie and the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, the Berlin Konzerthaus, Geneva’s Victoria Hall, the Tonhalle Zurich, London’s Barbican and the Hollywood Bowl. Her YouTube video of “Summer” from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, made with the Trondheim Soloists, has been viewed nearly 25 million times, reflecting her online presence and popularity. She and her brother gave the world premiere of James Horner’s double concerto for violin, cello and orchestra in November 2014, and recorded the work as the centrepiece of Pas de Deux, released on Mercury Classics (Universal Music). Mari was subsequently joined by Håkon and the Trondheim Soloists on her first solo recording, Nordic Noir, an album of the kind of hauntingly atmospheric music known from TV series such as The Killing, The Bridge and Broadchurch. Very unusually for classical recordings, both albums were hits in the Norwegian pop charts (reaching the No.1 and No.2 spots respectively).
In June 2017 Samuelsen joined Max Richter and the 12 ensemble to open the Montreux Jazz Festival with Richter’s Four Seasons-inspired Recomposed. She works regularly with the British composer, and appeared as soloist on Deutsche Grammophon’s world premiere recording of Three Worlds – Music from Woolf Works as well as performing “November” as part of the Yellow Label’s DG120 concert at Beijing’s Forbidden City in October 2018. Her 2018-19 season continued with European tours and performances of Recomposed in Hong Kong with Richter and of his Memoryhouse in Tokyo with the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra. Forthcoming highlights include concerts with the Orchestre National de Lyon together with Max Richter, Messiaen’s Quatuor pour le fin du temps with fellow DG artist Alice Sara Ott at Schloss Elmau and LSO St Luke’s, and touring with Kristjan Järvi and the Baltic Sea Philharmonic, with appearances at the Berlin Philharmonie and Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, as well as the Radio France Festival in Montpellier.
Mari Samuelsen plays a G.B. Guadagnini violin (Turin, 1773), on generous loan from the Anders Sveaas Charitable Foundation, Oslo.