"It's great to play Sutra with the Residentie Orkest" 

Interview with clarinetist Annelien Van Wauwe 

The famous Belgian clarinettist Annelien Van Wauwe will make her debut at Residentie Orkest on Friday, January 20. She will play, in Dutch premiere, the work Sutra by Wim Henderickx, which he composed on Annelien's initiative. Unfortunately, Wim Henderickx recently passed away unexpectedly. The following interview with Annelien Van Wauwe took place shortly before his death. 

Annelien was born in Hamme, a small town southeast of Antwerp. Her father was a lawyer, her mother works at the registry of the Flemish Parliament. Was it a musical family? "There was no music at home, but my parents thought it was a good idea for me to go to music school." Annelien was about seven years old when she started playing the clarinet. Annelien also practiced athletics fanatically until serious injuries put an end to that. "Then I went completely for the clarinet," she said. The rapid unfolding of her talent led her, aged seventeen, to go to Lübeck to study clarinet with Sabine Meyer. "She was once the first woman in the Berliner Philharmoniker, at the intercession of Herbert von Karajan. He did so not because of her being a woman, but because of her wonderful playing. I knew her playing from recordings; it inspired me. It was exciting to go to her though, I hadn't met her yet, and would have lessons in German..." 

After studying with Sabine Meyer, Annelien took lessons with other great clarinetists, and was successful at many competitions. This opened the doors of the concert stages. What was it like to solo with an orchestra for the first time? "Playing solo with orchestra is something you have to learn, and I loved it right away. People now sometimes say, 'Are you going to play that Mozart concerto again?' but that's what I love about it, that I can continue to develop."  

Playing together
In those days Annelien was also asked to substitute in orchestras. So she knows both sides of the profession: playing the clarinet in an orchestra and in front of one. How does she experience that? "As the first clarinet in the orchestra you also play solos, but apart from that it's all about working together with colleagues: where does the intonation go? How do we mix with each other? And at the front of the orchestra, the second violins play accompaniment figures that we try to hear and thereby time perfectly. A challenge! Conversely, as a soloist, I can put this experience to good use; I know what to listen for to make playing together possible." 

Annelien has formed several ensembles in recent years: Carousel, consisting of 12 musicians, and Breeze, with five woodwind players. "Carousel has a close relationship with the audience, and we dress accordingly to the mood of the music. Breeze is a bit more adventurous; for example, we work with a video artist who projects live images behind us." Annelien has another project underway: FRAgraNCE, with French pianist Paloma Kouider and a "live perfumer. What can listeners expect there? "The perfumer mixes the music on stage with scents! I thought; what happens when you combine music with things that appeal to other senses? I think that's an exciting idea." 

"I think it would be great to play Sutra with the Residentie Orkest, which has a great reputation for playing contemporary music. "

- Annelien Van Wauwe

For some time now, Annelien has been principal study teacher of clarinet at the Royal Conservatoire The Hague in The Hague. "Teaching forms the core of my musical life. And Amare, which houses the conservatory, is a great building, like a five-star hotel! I think it would be great to play Sutra there with the Residentie Orkest, which has a great reputation for playing contemporary music."  

Composer Wim Henderickx's work Sutra is inspired by yoga. What role does yoga play in Annelien's life? "During my studies, I discovered how valuable yoga is. It had a great influence on my clarinet playing: my breathing and breath support improved naturally through yoga. Yoga stimulates your physical health and strength, and is great for the mind, promoting concentration and calmness. I took several intensive courses and did teacher training. I also use yoga in my clarinet lessons. Personally, I like to start the day with a yoga session, then everything runs smoothly afterwards." 

"During my studies, I discovered how valuable yoga is. It had a great influence on my clarinet playing: my breathing and breath support improved naturally through yoga. "

- Annelien Van Wauwe

How did Sutra come about? "Once, at the end of a joint yoga session, I heard chanted mantras that connected beautifully with yoga. I thought: wouldn't it be special to compose music for orchestra and a soloist from the yoga experience? With this idea I approached the Belgian composer Wim Henderickx, who has written much spiritually inspired music, and he became enthusiastic. Sutra is music for orchestra, electronics and solo basset clarinet - and I also speak and sing throughout the work. It is not "oriental" background music for a yoga session; the idiom is in the tradition of contemporary Western classical music. The atmosphere ranges from deeply meditative to violent outbursts. The electronic soundscapes create a kind of resonance between soloist and orchestra, they create an embracing, unifying effect. This is what yoga and music both do: bring together, connect, and I love that!"
Ronald Touw