Laura van der Heijden

Laura Van Der Heijden

Since winning BBC Young Musician in 2012, the cellist's career has gone from strength to strength, with worldwide performances and the release of her debut recording. Find out what makes her tick...

  • By Lucy Doyle
  • 9 May 2018
  • min read
Since winning BBC Young Musician in 2012 at the age of 15, cellist Laura van der Heijden's career has gone from strength to strength.

Following her appearance on the long-running BBC competition, there's been no shortage of accolades. In 2014, she was awarded the Landgraf von Hessen Prize at the Kronberg Academy’s prestigious international masterclasses, while the following year she was named Young Artist in Residence of the London Mozart Players.

Praised for her mesmerising performances and poised expression, Laura's toured all over world with the likes of the National Youth Orchestra, BBC Proms Australia and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and kicked off 2018 with the release of her critically acclaimed debut recording, 1948.

Currently studying for her Bachelor’s Degree in Music at the University of Cambridge, the emerging talent splits her term-time between study and performance, and is gearing up for her Tokyo debut this August with the Dvorak Concerto.

Ahead of that, we catch up for a quick-fire round of questions to get to know her...

What was the first song you developed an obsession for?

When I was very little I listened to a CD, which had Let’s Twist Again on it, over and over again, whilst dancing, of course.

What’s the first gig you went to?

At about three months old I was taken to hear our local chamber orchestra, the Jupiter. I must have enjoyed it, since I didn’t cry or cause any problems.

What’s the first instrument you ever got hold of?

I started the recorder properly at four, but when I was two, I tried out my dad’s full-size cello and was quite excited by the scratchy sounds I was making!

What is your worst musical habit?

I procrastinate a lot, so starting practice is always a bit of an ordeal. Once I get going it’s fine!

What’s the best piece of musical advice you’ve ever been given?

It’s very hard to choose one piece of advice, as over the 15 years I’ve been learning the cello I’ve had lots of it! Different pieces of advice have been extremely helpful in different stages of my development; at the moment, the focus on trying to make the cello speak and sing is propelling me forwards.

Where do you discover new music?

The wonderful thing about music is that you come across it in every situation. I love finding out what other people listen to when I get to know them, and often ask them to make me Spotify playlists. I also enjoy going to concerts where I don’t know the music, and getting involved in projects to learn new pieces (ranging from choir to baroque cello).

What’s your favourite venue?

That’s very hard to choose. I just performed a lunchtime recital at the Wigmore Hall, and the acoustic and atmosphere there is really wonderful to play in.

Who is your current favourite band/artist?

It depends in which genre! I am listening to a lot of jazz, funk, and chill-hop at the moment, but in the classical genre I tend to gravitate towards the ‘old greats’ like Daniil Shafran, Nathan Milstein, Fritz Wunderlich, Henryk Szeryng, Gregor Piatigorsky and many more.

What inspirations outside of music impact your playing?

I love finding inspiration everywhere; in nature, literature, films, relationships, even food!

What’s next for you?

I am in my second year of studying music at Cambridge University, so I have one more year left. During the holidays (and terms too) I am playing concerts. I’m especially looking forward to my debut in Tokyo, Japan with the Dvorak Concerto in August!