Léonie Sonning Talent Prize 2018

Niklas Johansen

When playing a concert, it’s not about me but the music

Recently, Niklas Johansen played the first movement of Koyunbaba by Carlo Domeniconis. He is sitting as if he is in another world, and more than 20 seconds pass before he looks up and lets go of his guitar.

When playing Koyunbaba, I have to be brought to reality afterwards. While playing, I am “in the zone”, and it may therefore take a little longer before I can leave the music, Niklas Johansen explains. He has played the guitar since he was nine and is now a student in the soloist class at DKDM.

Previously, it was very difficult for Niklas to perform before other people, but during a study in Spain, he experienced a completely different attitude when it comes to playing a concert.

In Denmark, some people consider playing a concert as a kind of exam. The audience sitting so quietly in the concert hall is the judge. I have participated in many seminars on performance anxiety, but it is so great to experience people with a different attitude. They couldn’t understand that perception of performance. They were inside the music and enjoyed playing together and interacting with the audience. This experience has changed me more than any of the seminars, says Niklas.

Now, when playing, I go into a magic place where it is no longer about me. I go into the music and my ego leaves me just before I strike the first chord. Then it’s no longer about me but about the music. When striking the last note, you are obligated to the work not to end it too soon. Your ego has to come back, and when there have been no sounds for a long time, it can end, Niklas Johansen explains.

He likes his life as a solo guitarist. The instrument does not have a fixed place in an orchestra, which suits Niklas well.

When playing classical guitar, you can be your own orchestra and play several voices. This is what made me choose the guitar originally. I love to ‘nerd’ with my approach to the sounds. To delve into them completely and loose myself in the music. I can also use this in other aspects of my life.

I know that, as a guitarist, my base is as a teacher in some form, and this is okay. I think it’s very exciting to have students because I get to think a lot about how I do things. This inspires my own performance, Niklas says.

The next milestone for Niklas is his début, which he is preparing.

I am planning for guitar with an orchestra. There has to be many in order for it to be possible. And I would also like to play new music by Erik Højsgaard, “C’est la Mer Mêlée au Soleil”. It’s a very brilliant composition for a guitar solo that challenges the limits. I’m very impressed as to how much you can write into a piece of music, Niklas Johansen says, who has not finished contemplating what to play at his début.

Niklas Johansen, guitar, in brief

Niklas was born in Copenhagen in 1989. Niklas started playing the guitar at age nine after having waited one year to take lessons. He was admitted to the Royal Danish Academy of Music at age 19, and now attends the soloist class. In 2013, he studied in Alicante, Spain, and in 2014, he studied in Weimar. Niklas has recorded Erik Højsgaard’s composition “C’est la Mer Mêlée au Soleil” on the 150th anniversary CD of the Royal Danish Academy of Music. His interest for new music has also led to first performances of works by e.g. Erik Højsgaard, Martin Lohse and Per Dybro Sørensen.

How Niklas will use the scholarship from the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation

Niklas is planning to use the scholarship for both private lessons with the French guitarist Judicael Perroy in Paris and participation in several festivals.