Charlie Siem • Classical Violinist
If you live the whirlwind existence of the classical violinist Charlie Siem, you smoke a cigar when you can. A smoke feels especially appropriate when he’s looking out over some postcard-quality plaza in Florence, where he lives; or the ancient city of Foligno, Italy, or in Oslo, the sites of recent concert performances. “Cigars are mediative,’ he says, explaining how they heighten his experience of leisure. “I usually have no more than one cigar a day around 6 p.m. or after lunch, if there is sunshine outside.” But there is no smoking just before playing. “Cigars do have an effect on your physical state,” he notes, “and I don’t like to tamper with that.”
A virtuoso whose violin playing ranges from Beethoven to Brahms with equal facility, 36-year-old Siem has a range of tobacco tastes from the diminutive Partagás Millefleur to the long, violin-like Por Larrañaga Montecarlo. He doesn’t light up to cap off a successful concert or celebrate a new record. “It’s more habitual than celebratory,” he explains.
Cigars, along with reading and exercising, have always been a respite from the busyness of his life. “I just recorded the Beethoven violin concerto, which was my dream since I began playing. It will be released this summer. The key to life is to be challenged,” Siem says.