In memoriam Wim Henderickx

In September 2022, Antony Hermus wanted to start his first season as new Chief Conductor with a work by a Belgian composer. At the time, the choice of a composition by Wim Henderickx was obvious: in the year of his 60th birthday, he had not only celebrated a particularly important success with his new opera De Bekeerlinge at Opera Ballet Vlaanderen, but I had also enjoyed a warm relationship with the Antwerp composer for many years.

Pulses of the Earth was performed with great success in the presence of Wim Henderickx and, in a subsequent conversation, we agreed that he would become the composer for the 2023-2024 season. This honour was a first that no other Belgian composer had ever received. We agreed that he would write two commissioned works: a shorter work to open the season and a symphony.

A few months later, like a thunderclap, we learned that Wim had suddenly passed away. The greatest, warmest man in the Belgian cultural world, who was present at every important concert, was gone. We offered our sincere condolences to his wife Bea and their children and were among the many people present at the funeral ceremony.

Wim was not an ivory tower composer, but an incredible talent, one of the greatest mood setters at cultural events of all kinds. He always knew for what and for whom he was writing: for this orchestra, for that musician, for that ensemble. You could see his impressive stature appearing everywhere, which was invariably the harbinger of an enjoyable evening.

It is a special honour for me and the Belgian National Orchestra that Wim Henderickx's very last orchestral composition is being given its posthumous world premiere. The completed score of Rejoice! (Hymn for new Times), a work commissioned by the Belgian National Orchestra on the theme of hope and despair, was found on Wim Henderickx' desk after his death. The fact that Wim resolutely opted for hope is not surprising and is a comfort to those of us who remain after his death.

I carry in my heart the conversations we had while preparing this work: about human beings trying to make the best of a world they did not choose for themselves. About the mistakes we make, over and over again, but which do not prevent us from aspiring to something higher, something better. There was always something spiritual about Wim.

The new symphony we commissioned from Wim Henderickx - which was to be performed at the concert on 15 March 2024 in collaboration with Klarafestival and Bozar - never came to be. Instead, we decided to programme the monumental orchestral composition Tejas (What does the Sound of the Universe look like?). In retrospect, this composition is perhaps Wim Henderickx's magnus opus as far as his purely symphonic works are concerned. It was his dream to include this piece in the programme for this season, together with his two new compositions.

For me, this work has a very personal dimension, because I commissioned it myself in 2009 as the intendant of the deFilharmonie, the current Antwerp Symphony Orchestra. As in the past, we are putting Tejas in relation with the work with which it was composed in dialogue: Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. Two fantastic scores. Two monumental and deeply spiritual works.


My thoughts are with you, Wim.


Hans Waege