Celebrated on both recital and opera platform, baritone Henk Neven is a recipient of Dutch Music Prize, the highest honour that the Netherlands Ministry of Culture awards to a classical musician. He was awarded a Borletti-Buitoni Fellowship and the prestigious BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists Scheme and his first commercial album Auf einer Burg, on Onyx Records, with lieder by Robert Schumann and Carl Loewe, received critical acclaim and was nominated for the prestigious Gramophone Award.
His operatic roles include the title role and Leporello Don Giovanni; Conte Le nozze di Figaro; Phorbas Oedipe; Mercutio Roméo et Juliette; Patrocle Iphiginie en Aulide; Mercutio Roméo et Juliette; Aeneas Dido and Aeneas; Marco Gianni Schicchi; Schaunard La bohème; Morales Carmen; Ben The Telephone and Mr. Gobineau The Medium; Mars Vénus et Adonis; Pollux Castor et Pollux; and Frère Léon St. François d'Assise, staged by Pierre Audi and recorded for DVD by Opus Arte. He has appeared at the Opéra National de Paris, La Monnaie, Berlin Staatsoper, Theater an der Wien, Le Duo de Dijon, Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux, L'Opéra National de Montpellier, Grand Théâtre de Tours, Opéra de Rouen and De Nederlandse Opera.
On the concert platform he has worked with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Radio Filharmonisch Orkest, Radio Kamer Filharmonie, Bergen Philharmonic, Combattimento Consort Amsterdam, Netherlands Bachvereniging, Vlaams Radio Orkest, L'Orchestre National de France, L'Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Orchestre d'Opéra National de Paris, Staatskapelle Berlin, L'Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, Les Concerts Spirituels and Les Talens Lyriques. He has worked with conductors including Daniel Barenboim, Simon Rattle, Edo de Waart, Jaap van Zweden, Jan Willem de Vriend, Hervé Niquet, Kenneth Montgomery, Joel Levi, Patrick Lange, Armin Jordan, John Nelson, Ed Spanjaard, Marc Minkowski and Christophe Rousset.
An outstanding recitalist, he is a regular guest of the Wigmore Hall, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and at the NTR ZaterdagMatinee series. He has performed in the Festival Oude Muziek in Utrecht, Operadagen Rotterdam and the Gergiev Festival. Past highlights include debuts at the City of London Festival and Cheltenham Festival; performances for the BBC Proms; and recitals for La Monnaie in Brussels, Amsterdam’s Beurs van Berlage and Musée d'Orsay in Paris.
Henk Neven started recording for Onyx Records in 2011, when his Gramophone-nominated debut album Auf einer Burg was received with the highest acclaim. In 2012, Onyx Records released his second album, The Sea on which he performs songs by Debussy, Fauré and Schubert. He will return to the studio for a third release in 2014.
Last season his engagements included Brahms Requiem with Marin Alsop and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment at the BBC Proms, St Matthew Passion with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, concerts at the Concertgebouw, Beethoven Mass in C with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Aeneas Dido and Aeneas in Versailles and Rouen, Ubalde and Aronte Armide for the Netherlands Opera and Hamlet for La Monnaie, and further recitals for the Wigmore Hall, Dartington, the Concertgebouw and in Rotterdam.
In 2014-15 Henk Neven will star in the title role of Don Giovanni at Bergen National Opera and will sing Pollux Castor et Pollux in Dijon and Lille with Emmanuelle Haïm. Further highlights include concerts with Les Violons du Roy under Bernard Labadie at New York’s Carnegie Hall and in Chicago; St Matthew Passion with Capella Amsterdam; and recitals with Robert Hall at De Doelen, and Imogen Cooper at the Wigmore Hall.
Henk Neven is represented by Intermusica in the UK.
September 2014 / 567 words. Not to be altered without permission. Please destroy all previous biographical material.
Recital with Hans Eijsackers / Wigmore Hall
"... it's obvious that his supple, finely coloured voice is a natural asset rather than an imposed style... these exquisite miniatures were ideal for Neven's poetic, introspective singing."
Melanie Eskenazi, Music OMH, October 2014
Castor et Pollux / Opéra de Dijon
“Henk Neven gives Pollux a nobility and greatness of soul crucial to this immortal”
Philippe Venturini, Les Echos, September 2014
“Dutch bass-baritone Henk Neven embodies all the nobility and elegance that suit Pollux”
Jean-Marc Piriou, Bachtrack, October 2014
Recital with Hans Eijsackers / Muziekgebouw Amsterdam
“Neven, infusing his rich tone with dark colour, struck just the right note of grandeur and mystery. He sang the short “Chanson du Duc” with stirring fervour, his wealth of vocal colours brought into play apparently effortlessly.”
“Neven could hardly be faulted for sensitivity to affect and text. His luscious legato easily sustained the grandeur and melancholy of Ibert’s “Chanson de la mort de Don Quichotte” and Schubert’s “Wer sich der Einsamkeit ergibt” from Gesänge des Harfners, while Ravel’s light “Chanson Romanesque” was delivered with poignant charm. I especially enjoyed the lively comical songs in the programme, in which Neven clearly showed an aptitude for delicate physical comedy, giving irrepressible panache to the hiccupping drunken knight in Ravel’s “Chanson à boire”. His slight swaying had the audience in ripples of laughter, while never crossing the line into vulgarity: the meat of the comedy was always provided by the flexibility of the voice.”
“Neven used the softer colours in his voice sensitively, creating just the right combination of romantic distance and warm desire.”
“Neven’s direct, approachable delivery prevented this from becoming oppressive to the audience. Instead he managed to create a sense of intimacy, which welcomed the audience into the darker and more ambiguous world of Schubert’s storytelling.”
“Neven gave excellent characterisation to the three distinct voices - the Erlking, the father and the dying child - the Erlking was deliciously sinister, with a wheedling tone.”
Rosemary Carlton-Willis, Bachtrack, May 2014
Wigmore Hall recital / acc. Hans Eijsackers
“The rapid rise of Dutch baritone Henk Neven is easy to explain. He is blessed with instant charm and the voice, still attractively youthful in his late 30s, emerges full-toned from his slight frame with a faint, fast vibrato that lends it a distinctive tang.
The latter’s cabaret-like flavour, which Neven delivered with sensitivity and conviction, proved surprisingly moving…
…successful in this perfumed trio of Paul Morand settings were the pleasingly phrased strophes of the opening “Chanson romanesque” and the drunken swagger-stagger with which he imbued the “Chanson à boire”.
Thus Neven made "Ganymed" burst with life and found a perfect stillness in the two Wandrers Nachtlieder…”
Mark Valencia, The Arts Desk, May 2014
Recital / Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ
“Neven waagde zich niet aan typisch Spaanse stembuigingen, zoals we van flamencozangers kennen, maar liet zijn warme bariton heerlijk opbloeien in de afwisselend trieste en opgewekte sferen.”
“Neven ventured not to typical Spanish inflections, but let his warm, delicious baritone flamenco singing flourish in the alternately sad and cheerful atmospheres.”
“In de voor Neven kenmerkende fijnzinnige zachte passages bleef zijn karakteristieke timbre steeds overeind, zelfs in de neuriënde slotfrasen van ‘Pámpano verde’.”
“…Neven always retained his characteristic timbre, with subtle, characteristic soft passages, even in the final phrases of ' neuriënde Pámpano verde '.”
“Neven gaf de peilloze eenzaamheid indrukwekkend gestalte”
“Neven gave the fathomless solitude impressive stature.”
Martin Toet, Place de l’Opera, May 2014
Aeneas Dido and Aeneas / l’Opéra de Rouen
Cond. Vincent Dumestre Dir. Cecile Roussat
“…Henk Neven, for the elegance of his seductive Aeneas, as much vocally as physically...”
“…Henk Neven pour l’élégance de son Énée séduisant tant vocalement que physiquement...”
Brigitte Cormier, Forum Opera, May 2014
Henri Duparc recital with Sarah Connolly / Wigmore Hall
Piano: Malcolm Martineau
“They could have been singing only for each other. At times, listening felt intrusive. Yet, every word drew us in deeper, every note clamoured for attention. It was like eating in a fine restaurant – all aromas, taste and colours designed to complement one another…Neven went for the more straightforward approach, laying out his emotions on a slab. “Soupir” brimmed with longing; “Le gallop”, a sense of fearlessness…In “La vie antérieure”…his muscular voice softened and yielded to the exact needs of the poetry.”
Hannah Nepil, Financial Times, April 2014
“Neven was more detailed and expressionistic, with each of his songs swerving towards a dramatic monologue.”
Tim Ashley, Guardian, April 2014
Henri Duparc recital with Sarah Connolly / Wigmore Hall
Piano: Malcolm Martineau
“He’s an engaging presence on the podium, with a firm, resonant baritone.”
Neil Fisher, Times, April 2014
Armide / Amsterdam
“…often with very attractive results, as in the duet between Melissa and ineffable Ubaldo, a convincing Henk Neven…”
Laurent Bury, Forum Opera, October 2013
Prom 47: Schumann Symphony No.4 and Brahms's German Requiem / OAE
Cond. Marin Alsop
“Soloists Henk Neven and Rachel Harnisch both gave stellar performances…”
One Stop Arts, August 2013
“Baritone Henk Neven… brought extra weight to the text… I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”
Daily Express, August 2013
“Baritone Henk Neven intoned the opening words of the third movement with composure tinged withanxiety…Neven wonderfully conveyed both the fears and hopes which define human mortality...”
Opera Today, August 2013
“There were striking contributions, too, from the baritone soloist Henk Neven, intimately sung and marvellously clear with the text...”
Guardian, August 2013
“[Henk Neven]… vividly brought the text alive...”
Times, August 2013
“The young soloists were also responsible for some transformative moments. I thought the Dutch baritone Henk Neven brought out both the humility of "Herr, lehre doch mich" and the confident prophecy of "Siehe, ich sage euch ein Gehemnis" better than his counterpart on Alsop's new Naxos recording.”
The Arts Desk, August 2013
“Soloist Henk Neven gave [a] stellar performance...”
Bach Track, August 2013
“Henk Neven was a characterful solo baritone...”
Classical Source, August 2013
Recording: The Sea: Songs by Fauré, Schubert & Debussy / Onyx 4102
acc. Hans Eijsackers
“Rarely do you hear, even in the rarefied world of French melodie and German Lieder, a baritone who sings with such subtlety in shading of dynamic and tone as the Dutch baritone Henk Neven. Last year I welcomed his Onyx disc of Lieder by Loewe and Schumann (7/11) and this latest disc extends my admiration even further in totally exquisite singing.
The theme of this collection is the sea, though Neven extends the idea to cover such waterways as the river Danube in Schubert’s ‘Auf der Donau’. The three Debussy songs to words by Verlaine are wonderfully evocative in their response to the words describing scenes of nature, starting with ‘La me rest plus bell’ with surging piano accompaniment supporting a vocal line which ranges over the most subtle range of pianissimos, where Neven’s voice is headily beautiful. So it is with the Faure items. Neven covers these with the most seductive and responsive singing.
Fine as Neven’s French group is, the Schubert songs have an even more powerful impact.
In all the songs Hans Eijsackers is the most sensitive partner, matching Neven in responsiveness. Altogether a most memorable song record.”
Edward Greenfield, Gramophone, February 2013
“His lyrical timbre comes into its own in magnificent songs of Debussy and Fauré”.
Eddie Vetter, De Telegraaf, January 2013
“A delightful recital... Neven’s melodies are every bit as persuasive as his lieder, finding great poetry in well-chosen songs by Fauré and Debussy. The many facets of Schurbert’s fascination with the aquatic come off equally well, and throughout Eijsackers proves an insightful and gifted collaborator”.
Guy Weatherall, Classical Music Magazine, November 2012
Papageno in Mozart Die Zauberflöte
Opéra de Marseille / cond. Kenneth Montgomery / dir. Jean-Paul Scarpitta
“Henk Neven is a spirited Papageno with undeniable vocal qualities.”
“Henk Neven est un Papageno filiforme aux indéniables qualités vocales.”
Michael Egea, LaProvence.com, June 2012
Wigmore Hall Recital/ acc. Hans Eijsackers
“Neven showed that he can soften the crisp outlines of his voice that give such definition to his phrasing to produce a wonderfully honeyed legato that wrapped itself around Fauré's deceptively straightforward vocal lines…Neven delivered with just the right degree of neutrality to allow its beauty to speak for itself… he conjured a moment of tranquility to precisely match the one Fauré creates in Diane, Sélené, the third song of that cycle. An absorbing, wonderfully intelligent recital.”
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, March 2012
Mozart's Requiem / Royal Albert Hall / Polyphony with the City of London Sinfonia / cond. Stephen Layton
“…an eloquent quartet of soloists… mezzo Renata Pokupić and baritone Henk Neven… ensured that Mozart's Requiem made its proper mark in the second half.”
George Hall, The Guardian, August 2011
Mussorgsky (orch. Shostakovich) Songs and Dances of Death / Hodinott Hall / BBC NOW / cond. Robert Minczuk
“The portrayals up-and-coming Dutch baritone Henk Neven brought to the songs were startlingly realistic. For a singer with a warm, lyric gift, this was role-play par excellence.”
Nigel Jarrett, The South Wales Argus, June 2011
Auf Einer Burg – Songs by Loewe and Schumann (Onyx)
“He has a fine voice, somewhat rugged in texture, but with a wide range of colour and dynamics.
…his technique is in good shape. The lovely Schumann cycle is very nicely done, with careful, imaginative treatment of text…
…satisfying are the Loewe songs – mostly familiar ones – where rugged, quality of his voice contributes to the story-telling in the ballads. His ‘Hinkende Jamben’ is a touching example of his fine characterization; and longer works like ‘Tom der Reimer’, ‘Herr Oluf’, and ‘Odins Meeresritt’ have just the right amount of narrative tone.
In short, a very nice debut record and a name to look for in the future.”
Paul L Althouse, American Record Guide
, October 2011
"Here’s a name to watch. The young Dutch baritone was made a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist two years ago and richly deserves his chance to shine on his first solo album. Neven’s highly individual timbre is unlike any other lieder interpreter’s; he sings with astonishing technical finesse, verbal acuity and a youthful sense of wonder in these pieces from Schumann’s annus mirabilis of song, 1840 (the year of his long-delayed marriage to Clara). This is an entirely fresh account of a familiar cycle, Eichendorff Liederkreis
, Op 39, preceded by a group of Loewe ballads, steeped, like Schumann’s songs, in romantic nostalgia for medieval Germanic folklore. Eijsackers’s virtuoso piano-playing only enhances this remarkable young singer’s outstanding debut."
Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times
, April 2011
“...An intelligent reading, a sense of dignity in the timbre, exceptional diction... Not only in [Henk Neven’s] voice but also in the interpretation there is a great sense of breadth with his flexible approach to the music. The musical conversation between Neven and his excellent accompanist gives extra sparkle. This is a CD that you will want to hear over and over again.”
Thiemo Wind, De Telegraaf, April 2011
“Young Dutch baritone Henk Neven has an exceptional voice – perfectly controlled, ideal for German Lieder. It is hardly an exaggeration to think of him on the evidence of this disc as a successor to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau… His gift of bringing out word-meaning is enhanced by the clearest possible diction and by the beautifully balanced recording. His shading of dynamics and phrasing then crowns each interpretation. It is a consistent joy to hear a Lieder singer whose tone is pure over the widest range without a trace of roughness, even under pressure, but who refuses ever to roughen the voice, slide into notes or sit under the note. Though Neven is still young, his voice is fully mature, and in such an extended song as 'Herr Oluf' he sustains tension with his consistently imaginative treatment of words. In the Ruckert setting 'Hinkende Jamben', he not only points the rhythm beautifully but also uses a lovely head-voice. In 'Der selt'ne Beter' he builds up to a most dramatic close, while another Ruckert song, 'Susses Begrabnis', inspires him to sing with a seamless legato."
"The climax of 'Waldesgesprach' on the words 'Du bist die Hexe Lorelei' comes over at full force yet without any roughness. 'Mondnacht' brings more lovely legato and fine control of crescendo, while the concluding "Fruhlingsnacht" brings an exuberant close. It is a long time since I enjoyed a disc of Lieder from a young singer quite as much as this, and I long to hear more from him.”
Edward Greenfield, Gramophone, July 2011
“[Neven] has a beautiful voice, flexible, rounded and warm, and sings, always in the middle of the note, with much intelligence and no affectation… both Neven and his excellent accompanist Hans Eijsackers manage almost to avoid sentimentality… Neven and Eijsackers give the ballads the kind of whole-hearted but entirely straightforward treatment that suits them best… all these ['Liederkreis' Op.39] are here most beautifully given their full meditative content, with nothing overdone by either performer."
Lucy Beckett, International Record Review, July 2011