‘It’s our responsibility to show classical music to everyone,’ say young stars Camille and Julie Berthollet

23 September 2021, 14:05

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

The brilliant Berthollet sisters tell Classic FM’s Alexander Armstrong about the joy of making their UK concert debut at the spectacular Royal Albert Hall – and the responsibility they feel to bring classical music to a younger generation.

From Vivaldi to Djawadi – the Berthollet sisters filled last night’s Royal Albert Hall concert with thrilling orchestral melodies from the 17th through to the 21st century.

It was a remarkable night for Camille and Julie, the French string duo, whose Classic FM Live debut also marked their first ever UK concert. Signed as Warner Classics artists, the sisters have been performing around the world both together, and as soloists, since 2008.

“We’ve played in Warner’s offices, but it’s not the same… this is public… I’m nervous!” Julie admits, as the sisters speak backstage to Classic FM’s Alexander Armstrong, who hosted Classic FM Live for the first time alongside Margherita Taylor.

“Don’t be nervous!” Alexander reassures them, adding: “And the pair of you have played together since you were tiny…”.

Camille started as a cellist, with her elder sister Julie playing violin. And has their relationship evolved since those early memories of duetting in their childhood bedroom? “I am still ‘tiny’,” Julie grins. “But we’ve played together since I was five, and [Camille] was four years old.”

Read more: Experience Classic FM Live 2021 at the spectacular Royal Albert Hall in pictures

French string duo Camille and Julie Berthollet play at Classic FM Live 2021
French string duo Camille and Julie Berthollet play at Classic FM Live 2021. Picture: Matt Crossick

As for their on-stage relationship, Camille says, “It all depends on the day.”

“It’s always a balance,” Julie nods. “One day, one of us is in a very energetic mood and the other one is feeling a bit down, and then it balances out quite [well]. We’re like… twins but different.”

‘Prodigy sisters’, ‘twins but different’ – Camille and Julie’s close stage dynamic is thrilling to watch, not least because of their multi-instrumentalism. Camille started as a cellist, but also plays violin, “because I wanted to play the same as my sister!” she tells Alexander.

Julie, who is a violinist and violist, questions whether “the viola counts” as an extra instrument, before adding: “My viola teacher will kill me [for saying that]…”.

“And do you have a rack of instruments, like at a rock concert, where you change from the violin up to the viola?” the Classic FM presenter asks, to which Camille replies: “We always change on stage actually, and we love to do it.”

The sisters opened their set with Welsh choral composer Karl Jenkins’ ‘Palladio’, before travelling back through the centuries to play an extract from Vivaldi’s beloved Four Seasons, and forward again – this time, for a dive into the world of TV and film music.

The Mission Impossible theme and Ramin Djawadi’s thrilling music for Game of Thrones, both heard on stage last night, also feature in their new album Series. “At Classic FM Live,” Alexander says in the interview, “We have a number of people [in the audience] who have never been to a classical concert before.”

“That’s what we love!” Camille chimes in.

“And therefore, on your shoulders, you have this wonderful opportunity to bring people in and make it a habit – get them to come back again,” Alexander says. “Do you think playing TV and film music has a particular effect on people?”

“I hope so,” Julie replies. “Because when people watch movies, they don’t think too much, they just enjoy the music, the feelings.”

“But they remember the music,” Camille says.

The Berthollet sisters play Vivaldi, Jenkins and Djawadi for their Royal Albert Hall debut
The Berthollet sisters play Vivaldi, Jenkins and Djawadi for their Royal Albert Hall debut. Picture: Matt Crossick

Julie says, “I think it’s our responsibility to show classical music to everyone,” as Camille nods, adding: “That’s what we try to do the whole time. It’s so important – to bring children and people that haven’t been to a classical concert before. And usually, they love it.”

It must be a joy, Alexander says, to be back playing music for a live audience, after the 18th-month hiatus that has swept the music industry. “Concerts are coming back every day now,” the sisters say. “We’re so happy.”

But even in lockdown, they found a way to keep making music, getting young people involved in live-streams and virtual practice sessions. “We made children participate in music, we played all together,” says Julie. “It was so fun.”

“Also – sidenote – now… we can cook quite well,” Julie grins.

Listen to Camille and Julie Berthollet performing at Classic FM Live 2021 at 8pm tonight on the Classic FM Concert with John Suchet. Or catch up afterwards on Global Player.