Léonie Sonning Talent Prize 2019

Nikolaj Henriques

The bassoonist who lives in the moment

Nikolaj Henriques actually started playing the clarinet. When he saw the Tivoli Youth Guard marching in their handsome uniforms, he badgered his parents to let him register for the admission test. He got in and, at the age of 6, he started his music career.

As a clarinettist, he was, however, somewhat lazy, and he only practised what he had to. But there was a strong sense of solidarity, and he had many good friends so the Tivoli Youth Guard has been a very important place for Nikolaj.

At 13, the Tivoli Youth Guard needed an oboist and a bassoonist and Nikolaj was asked to change instrument. The bassoon won, and his interest in playing the bassoon increased quickly. “It was not until I started playing the bassoon that real classical music began to interest me a lot - before that, it was more about the social relations and the good friendships in the Tivoli Youth Guard.”

The bassoon may play many roles

It was the deep acoustic pattern that first attracted the young Tivoli guardsman when playing the bass frequencies in the numerous marches of the repertoire. Later, he realised that the bassoon had many other qualities.

“As a second bassoonist, your role is very important together with the cello and the double bass. As a solo bassoonist, you have many beautiful solos and play an indispensable role in the woodwind family. It may be very deep or very high - or both!”

Living in the moment

Nikolaj’s musical training started at Sankt Annæ Gymnasium’s MGK line and continued at the Royal Danish Academy of Music and the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Mannheim, Germany.

Nikolaj is inspired by the music he is working on right here and now. So his favourite composer changes all the time depending on the repertoire. One day, Richard Strauss may be the greatest composer ever, the next day Mahler or Mozart.

Altogether, he lives in the moment, and there is a good reason for this as it seems that the moment just gets better and better. His career has involved contracts in Finland and Hungary, jobs with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and most recently a position as solo bassoonist with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra where he started at the beginning of 2019.

Now, Nikolaj has made a home in this city in the Midlands after years of moving about as a musical commuter.

Lucky buy

Many bassoonists dream of playing a Heckel bassoon, and so did Nikolaj. The problem with a Heckel bassoon is that the factory in Germany no longer manufacturers that many so there may be 10-15 years of waiting time for this instrument.

Luckily, Nikolaj met an Italian who had ordered this exact instrument many years ago - the instrument that Nikolaj dreamed of. As the Italian had chosen to replace music with the life as a chef, Nikolaj persuaded him to sell the bassoon to him. His fortune was made and, since then, Nikolaj’s Heckel bassoon has followed him everywhere.

“It has an expressive and warm sound, but still with a charming tone colour. This is what I look for in an instrument so that what is inside your head is reflected through the instrument.”

Nikolaj Henriques in brief

Born in 1993. Raised in Copenhagen.
Started his music career in the Tivoli Youth Guard. Was admitted to the MGK line at Sankt Annæ Gymnasium in 2010.
The same year, he was awarded Jacob Gade's talent price, and he won the gold medal in Berlingske's Classical Music Competition.
In 2015, he finished his bachelor’s degree at the Royal Danish Academy of Music where he studied under Audun Halvorsen and Sebastian Stevensen.
He then moved to Germany to continue his studies with Ole Kristian Dahl at Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Mannheim. At the same time, Nikolaj was an orchestra academic with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
From 2014 to 2016, Nikolaj was a solo bassoonist with the European Union Youth Orchestra.
He was then employed on a fixed contract as second bassoonist with Danish National Symphony Orchestra for three years, and the toured with the Budapest Festival Orchestra and guest performed as solo bassoonist with Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, Turku Philharmonic, Iceland Symphony Orchestra and Copenhagen Phil.
In 2018, Nikolaj ended his trial period as a solo bassoonist with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra starting officially at the beginning of 2019.

The scholarship from the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation

Nikolaj Henriques will spend the scholarship from the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation on maintaining his instrument and purchasing mouthpieces as well as on a master class with Sergio Azzolini in Italy.