Bristol Proms: An interview with Hakon and Mari

Norwegian brother and sister duo, made up of violinist Mari and cellist Hakon Samuelsen, have forged an impressive international performing career. We caught up with them ahead of their Bristol Proms debut next week.

Hakon and Mari - Photo by Ricardofoto

Why have you chosen this particular repertoire for Bristol Proms?

We’ve chosen this program partly because there are pieces from our new album Pas de Deux that we’re very proud of and want to share with the Bristol Proms audience, and also because it shows how minimalism like Philip Glass and Arvo Pärt can be combined with music that’s written several centuries ago, like Vivaldi and Bach.

Hakon and I have actually equal interest (thank God) in all sort of repertoire, but still a quite different approach to it, musically, so even if we both play something which is composed more or less at the same time, and even by the same composer, it’ll sound quite different… but once we play a piece together, our two voices becomes one. At least we try to do so!

Have you performed any of these pieces before?

We’ve performed this programme quite few times, not put together like this though. Except the Einaudi piece, which is quite fresh, we just got to know it last year before the recording with the Liverpool Philharmonic. It’s called Divenire and might be familiar to many people from films. It’s especially arranged for violin, cello and orchestra by Paul Bateman for us, and we immediately fell in love with when we played it the first time. Fratres by Arvo Pärt is always a very special piece to perform, it forces you into a very hypnotic mood, almost meditative, and it’s challenging in many ways. I remember playing it at our annual Christmas concert in Norway, and there was such an exceptional atmosphere in the church, the audience of more than thousand people were completely quiet and we felt like wizards performing it.

Which moments within the music are you most looking forward to performing?

We’re very much looking forward to performing this full programme, in this very combination, and working with Sinfonia Cymru!

What music do you most like to listen to?

We both listen to very different music. It all depends what mood we’re in, and what the occasion is, but we try to listen to as wide range of styles as possible. From early renaissance to the top of the hit lists today. Hakon loves the Rolling Stones though… I think we both watched the Martin Scorsese film Shine a Light in the cinema 5 times or so. We believe in learning from musicians across genres, and also get inspired by people doing completely different things than playing music.

On a more personal note, what do you do to relax?

Be outside! We both love nature, so Autumn is a time where we try to take some time off to live in the forest. We grew up on a farm north of Oslo, close to the Olympic city Lillehammer, so cross country skiing has been a natural part of our lives since we were children. We try to stay fit, it helps when performing on stage. We like doing things that take us out of our daily routines, so just drinking coffee with friends isn’t really our thing. Needs to be filled with action and adrenaline. Then we can relax.

Photo by Ricardofoto.

Hakon and Mari play Pure Minimalist Baroque as part of Bristol Proms with Sinfonia Cymru in Bristol Old Vic Theatre on Wednesday 29 July at 7.30pm. Snap up your tickets here.

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