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Meet The Belgian Harpist Conquering International Orchestras
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Meet The Belgian Harpist Conquering International Orchestras

Picture of Naomi Clear-Vekinis
Director of Community
Updated: 7 March 2016
Anneleen Lenaerts is one of the world’s leading classically trained musicians, having been appointed Principal Harpist of the Vienna Philharmonic in 2010 at the young age of 22. Born in Belgium, Anneleen continues to showcase her talent globally through solo recitals, performances with prestigious orchestras, and CD releases. The Culture Trip was delighted to speak to Anneleen to learn more about her musical journey as well as her personal interests and thoughts on her home country.
© Marco Borggreve
© Marco Borggreve

How old were you when you began this musical journey, and why did you decide to focus on mastering the harp?

I started playing the piano at eight, following in my older sister and brother’s footsteps. When I wanted to choose a second instrument to be able to join a local orchestra, the conductor decided the harp would be best for me, although I had never seen or heard the instrument before! I love it now, but generally I think playing music was and is more important for me than the instrument itself.

When did you realize that you wanted to pursue this passion as a career?

I was lucky to have a teacher who thought I might have a talent for the harp, and she took me to many masterclasses and harp competitions abroad. I was also lucky to win many prizes and to be offered fantastic concert and recording opportunities out of it. One opportunity followed the next and basically I ‘rolled’ into professional life without noticing it! I feel fortunate to have had such a natural way into my career.

You’ve played in many orchestras in Belgium and abroad, notably as the Principal Harpist in the Vienna Philharmonic. What is the most memorable moment from your career so far?

It’s hard to say which moment has been the most memorable! For sure playing as a soloist with the National Orchestra of Belgium in Bozar was very special for me, and recording my latest CD with the Brussels Philharmonic for Klara and Warner Classics.

On top of that I have to say that being a part of the annual world famous New Year’s concert of the Vienna Philharmonic is very special, too!

What would be your dream venue or orchestra to perform in as a harpist?

With the Vienna Philharmonic, we are at home at the Musikverein, the famous Golden Hall, where I play in the orchestra for rehearsals and subscription concerts, but it would be a dream to once be on stage as a soloist in this amazing hall!

© Marco Borggreve
© Marco Borggreve

What advice would you give to someone who was trying to break into the business?

Of course hard work and discipline are necessary, but every musician has their own personality and needs to grow in their own way. It’s hard to give a perfect answer on this, but in short, every artist needs to keep true to themselves, find their own path, and believe in themselves!

If you weren’t a harpist, what would you be doing?

I never needed to seriously think about another profession! However, I do have some other interests like interior design, archaeology, and astronomy.

How often do you return to Belgium?

I go to Belgium quite regularly, because I’m invited for concerts – it’s lovely to see my friends and family at the same time!

What is your favorite city in Belgium and why?

I love Brussels. I lived there during my years of study, and I love its identity, diversity, and hidden beautiful places! You can find anything in Brussels; it’s a capital but still everything is reachable by foot!

© Marco Borggreve
© Marco Borggreve

Are there any music venues in Belgium that you’d recommend to our readers?

The main place to be for music and classical concerts is BOZAR in Brussels. Other than that there is Flagey, home of the Brussels Philharmonic, or Roma in Antwerp, an old cinema theater that has been turned into a beautiful concert hall. Keep your eyes open for the re-opening of the Queen Elisabeth Hall in Antwerp in October 2016, right next to the zoo or central station.

What is your favorite type of music to listen to, and who are your favorite musicians?

Of course I’m a classically trained musician, but I love all kinds of music. For me there is only good or bad music!

Finally, do you agree with the choices in our article, ‘12 Songs You Need To Listen To When In Brussels?‘ Are there any songs you’d add to the list?

I think it’s a great mix of songs made in Belgium! I might add Soulsister – ‘Way to Your Heart’ or Vaya Con Dios – ‘Nah Neh Nah.’

For more on Anneleen Lenaerts and her upcoming performances, visit her website.