Daan Boertien, pianist

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

From a very young age, it was clear to me that I was drawn to classical music, and the piano in particular. During a vacation in Mallorca when I was 9 years old, we visited the monastery in Valdemossa where Chopin spent a winter. From that moment on I knew: I wanted to become a pianist. Around the same age I was singing in a boys’ choir with an Anglican tradition, so becoming a song accompanist was a very natural road for me.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Definitely Covid. All of a sudden everything I was used to (and all of us) came to a crashing halt. At the time, I was a member of the Opera Studio of the Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam, and we worked very hard, with daily coachings, rehearsals and many performances. Then everything stopped and I realised how hard I was working and maybe lost track of the why. So I spent months walking through the park in Amsterdam and figuring it out. Now that everything slowly is getting back to normal, I realise I love music and making music together with other people and I care less about having a ‘career’.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

Next to our first CD of Winterreise, I am very happy to have made a recording in the Concertgebouw with Roderick Williams during the pandemic. We recorded Songs of Travel by Ralph Vaughan Williams, repertoire on which Roderick is an absolute specialist. The rehearsals and the whole experience of making the recording will stay with me.

Another performance that was very special for me was the Prinsegrachtconcert with Raoul Steffani, a yearly concert on the Prinsegracht in Amsterdam with an audience of around 10.000 people, many of whom are sitting on boats.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I feel very close to the music of Schubert. That’s why I was very happy to be able to record his most famous cycle, Winterreise, with Michael Wilmering. Schubert’s music speaks very directly to my heart. Every time I come to this music, new things come to my attention and I change the way I want to perform it. This means that our CD is by no means an end result, but just a station from our journey with the piece.

What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?

It is important for me to spend a lot of time with the music. Besides that, I go for walks, read books. For example, this summer I read Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyewski. The protagonist of this novel, Raskolnikov, reminds me very much of the personality of the character in Winterreise. The depths of his psyche, his illusions, have helped me to get a better understanding of how the protagonist of Winterreise might have felt.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

There are some classics that I’d want to perform every season: Winterreise, die schöne Müllerin, Dichterliebe. And then there are more hidden gems that either singers I work with or I found and want to program in a specific recital. I’m discovering the music of some English composers like Vaughan Williams, Britten and Gurney at the moment.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

My favourite hall at the moment would be the recital hall of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. It looks amazing and has a wonderful acoustic. You can almost whisper and still be heard.

Last fall I was at Oxford Lieder for the first time. The ambience there was something I hadn’t experienced before. The entire week the whole city breathes music.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

One of the most special concerts I attended was a recital by Arcadi Volodos. He created soundworlds on the piano I didn’t know were possible. the most simple phrases he played in a way that enchanted me.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

When I was younger I thought success would be to play in certain big halls for large audiences. Now that I have somewhat achieved this goal, I no longer see it as success. Success now feels as striving for the best you can do possible, and keeping doing that. There is something about consistency in practising that’s very important. Caring about the quality of everything you do.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

What I just mentioned is I think very important. When I was younger I was always looking for something I haven’t found yet. What does a composer mean with this, what is the spiritual meaning? Now I often realise that the answer is in the music and not outside of it. This might sound cryptic, but what I mean is, most of the time there is no answer. The beauty of the music, all happiness and pain that music can describe is what it is.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

I want to be happy with what I have achieved and where I’ll be in life. There is always something more you can strive for, and once it’s achieved, it doesn’t bring happiness anymore. I hope I can keep caring for what I do, with people that I enjoy making music with. I hope to be able to share my love for music with an appreciating audience and a new generation of singers and pianists.

A new recording of Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise by two young newcomers Michael Wilmering (tenor) and Daan Boertien (piano) is released by Dutch label TRPTK, who specialise in “acoustic immersion”

Daan Boertien is a Dutch concert pianist who specializes in song accompaniment. He recently performed with internationally acclaimed singers such as Benjamin Appl, Roderick Williams and Thomas Oliemans. His debut CD with baritone Michael Wilmering was praised by the international press. Since 2020, Daan Boertien has been affiliated with the Dutch National Opera Studio as an Associate Artist.

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