Pianist Joep Beving: ‘We seem to live outside reality more than ever’

On his fourth album ‘Hermetism’, the Dutch pianist Joep Beving goes in search of what is really important in life after the pandemic. “Instead of a more harmonious outcome, we’ve seen a huge influx of popularization.”

Joep Beving (46) has more monthly listeners on Spotify than Nils Frahm. “That is very unreal,” says the pianist from Amsterdam in a video conversation. He attributes it to the break that the poster boy of neoclassical piano music imposed on himself a few years ago, while the singles from Beving’s new album ‘Hermetism’ have been rotating considerably in the playlists of the streaming platform in recent months. ‘Nils will pass me again when he returns with new music. He can. My appreciation for him is too great to bear this heavy fate for long. (laughs)

Joep Beving: melancholic and romantic piano sounds.

Two of those singles – ‘De Leven’ with the Dutch singer S10 and ‘For Mark’ – are a tribute to his terminally ill manager Mark Brounen. “Mark is doing well. Well, actually not. He has been treated and we don’t know how long he will live. But he is doing very well, in the sense that he is still undertaking all kinds of things. We are now doing this tour together. Together with a different management, otherwise it would be a bit much. (blows) This was also added. First corona. When you’re almost out of there, some freak invades a country two countries away from yours. We seem to live in some kind of outer reality more than ever. I find that very difficult. How do you feel?’


It was the same Mark who persuaded Beving to trade in his job as an advertising strategist for a music career five years ago. The imposing Dutchman – more than two meters tall, long beard – worked for an Amsterdam advertising agency that supplied music for advertising and television. Until a burnout killed him and he rediscovered his grandmother’s piano in the kitchen at home. Spotify picked up his sober piano songs and Deutsche Grammophon, the most prestigious classical music label, signed him up.

“I’m very grateful that it turned out this way,” he says. ‘If I was still in my old life, I don’t know how I would be now. I would rather have started this adventure 13 years earlier. (thinks) But maybe it had to be. I’ve definitely taken things from my early career that will come in handy now. I studied public administration, and one of the things that really appealed to me was philosophy. I have already benefited a lot from this in this process.’

©Rahi Rezvanic

On his Schimmelpiano, the Dutchman likes to explore major philosophical issues. The title of his fourth album ‘Hermetism’ is derived from a spiritual philosophy that stems from ancient writings attributed to the Greek writer Hermes Trismegistus. Beving’s latest album is a search for universal ideas. He does this alone again, after forays into theater and film music and the collaboration on his previous album with the Belgian ensemble Echo Collective. And with songs that sound just as romantic and melancholy as titles like ‘Transfiguration’, ‘Paris s’enflamme’ or ‘Last Dance’ suggest.

“Hermetism” has several meanings, says the pianist. ‘One is to isolate yourself from society with the aim of gaining new insights: what is really important in life and how should we move forward? The answer to me is quite sobering. Instead of a more harmonious outcome, we have seen a huge influx of popularization.’


At the foundation of Trismegistus’s thought lie seven universal laws of nature. Those concepts – such as the cause-effect principle or our relationship to metaphysics – revolve around finding a balance in life. The themes continue in the twelve songs on ‘Hermetism’, without the pianist being able to explain what each song is about. ‘It doesn’t work that way, no. All those elements together are so big, so inexpressible that it is not easy for me to translate them into words. So I put my state of mind down on my keys. In retrospect I can say that converting those principles into music has made me more resilient and less anxious.’

If I had been an advertising strategist in my old life, I don’t know how I would look now.

Does playing the piano help him find the balance in his own life? †(smiles) Yes and no. I find it exciting to be responsible for a room full of people who paid for me. But it’s still a battle, I’m still very insecure about it. If I manage to get completely into the music on stage, and not have to struggle with my ratio and my own intuition, that is an example where those forces can come together. Last week I was allowed to play in the Rudolfinum in Prague. There it worked. It gives confidence and peace. I usually carry such a memory with me for a week or two or three. (laughs) If I’m right, I’ll still have it when I play in Bozar.’

‘Hermetism’ will be released April 8 via Deutsche Grammophon/Universal Music. Concert on April 15 in the Henry Le Boeuf Hall of Bozar

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