Bart Claessens (Principal Trombone) spoke with Dale and Jamie from The Eighth Position in advance of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s Australian tour in November 2013
What was the musical journey you took before winning your current position with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO)?
I started to play the violin when I was five years old. At that time I also started to play trumpet and when I was 11 changed from trumpet to trombone. My mother was my teacher on trumpet and said it might be a good idea to try to change to trombone. After I tried it I was completely sold. I began my trombone lessons with Ruud Welle and studied with him until I was 15, when I started lessons with George Wiegel at the Rotterdam Conservatory as a junior student. At age 19, in 2002, I won the job of Second/Bass Trombone of the RCO, and was appointed Principal Trombone of the RCO after another audition in 2007.
The RCO was recently crowned the world’s greatest orchestra by Gramophone magazine. What is life like as a permanent member of the RCO?
It is great. We have a very friendly orchestra, so the atmosphere is very nice during our rehearsals, concerts and of course the many tours we do. I have been in the orchestra since 2002 and feel that I have quite many friends among my colleagues. I enjoy the opportunity to play with some of the best musicians in the world and to share the stage with the best conductors and soloists. Also our concert hall, the famous Concertgebouw, is a great place to work.
What are your impressions of the Concertgebouw as a concert venue, and how does it differ from other concert halls that you’ve played in around the world?
It is a beautiful building which is famous for its acoustics. In my experience it is one of the best concert halls in the world. It is not easy to play on stage, because it is a bit [of a wet] acoustic, but if you listen in the hall you can hear everything and the sound blends really nicely.