Lys: Works for Violin
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Lys: Works for Violin

Mari Samuelsen, Scoring Berlin, Jonathan Stockhammer

Mari Samuelsen explores the phenomenon on which so much of life on earth depends. LYS - Norwegian for “Light” - presents music by thirteen female composers, from Hildegard of Bingen to Hildur Guðnadóttir, combining specially commissioned works with new arrangements of existing pieces.

The fourteen tracks are woven together to create a meditation in sound on something so fundamental that it is often taken for granted. The Norwegian violinist’s eclectic programme moves through light’s infinitely subtle qualities to reveal a musical world of boundless shades of emotion and expression.


The theme to this month’s reviewed albums is one of melding, fusion and blending. Not so much the crashing together of different musical worlds, but rather the layering of ideas and traditions to create something that feels new but sounds beautifully familiar.

Mari Samuelsen says her latest offering is an homage to light of many kinds – natural, artificial, ‘dark light’ – and how ‘we instinctively sense the way light affects our feelings’. What I found deeply engaging about all these works was the coalescence of so many musical ideas. In binding together the historically elegant sound of the violin with everything from the medieval musical traditions of Hildegard of Bingen through to the Beyoncé song ‘Halo’, Samuelsen explores the sound world of women through the ages.

Samuelsen has collaborated a number of times with the esteemed re-composer Max Richter and it shows in the lush sounds she produces from her violin and in the choices of repertoire. Going for a full album soundscape – ‘rather than a collection of “sentences” or impressions by different composers’ – it is purely coincidental that all the composers are female. Indeed, Samuelsen states she wanted composers or arrangers who would help her mould the works to fit the sound world she envisioned. Many of the composers are musicians I had not previously heard of, which is a failing on my part and not theirs. The music is truly glorious and as someone who is a fan of Richter, Einaudi and Daniel Hope, this album and its gentle lyricism will offer me some solace right when I need it. As Samuelsen states in her own words: ‘There’s a larger picture here that [she hopes] will take listeners on a journey into light and the atmosphere it creates as it shifts and changes.’

Kate Rockstrom is a friend of Readings.

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