Manja Smits became the first harpist to receive the Netherlands Music Prize (1993), the highest state award for classical music in the Netherlands.
She also was a prizewinner in the ‘Torneo Internazionale di Musica’ in Rome. (1998)
After her studies in the Netherlands she was granted a special scholarship from the Dutch Government to perfection her art with the famous late Prof. Vera Dulova at the Tschaikovski Conservatory in Moscow. She attended masterclasses with Pierre Jamet, Susann McDonald, Andrew-Lawrence King and Germaine Lorenzini.
Her repertoire ranges from Bach to Berio. She appeared on radio and television and is regularly invited to perform in festivals all over the world such as:
- the International Harp Festival in Fukui ( Japan ), the Rio Harp Festival (Brazil), Harpe Diem (Belgium), the Spring Harp days in Szeged (Hungary), the World Harp Congress, Peter de Grote Festival,..
Also contemporary music has her special attention. She performed at the Berio ConSequenze Festival, the Gubaidulina Festival, the Holland Festival, the Flemish Chambermusic Festival (Belgium) and the 4th Festival ‘Harp Art of Russia’ (Moscow).
Several dutch composers dedicated new works for harp to her.
As a soloist she performed with a.o. Nieuw Sinfonietta Amsterdam, the three dutch Radio Orchestra’s, the Gelders Orkest, Ensemble XXI (Moscow), Northwest Sinfonietta (USA), the London Festival Strings and ‘Deutsche Kammerakademie Neuss’.
She founded the Renoir Ensemble (flute, stringtrio, harp), The Holland Harp Trio (flute, viola, harp), ‘Les Quatre’ (violin, violoncello, harp, piano) and regularly appears in duo combinations such as viola/harp, soprano/harp, tenor/harp and flute/harp.
Amongst others she recorded French chamber music with the Renoir Ensemble, the CD ‘Mobile’ with music for oboe and harp with oboist Pauline Oostenrijk, ‘A l‘espagnole’ with the Ensemble ‘Les Quatre’ and her solo CD appeared on the Vanguard Classics label.
A new CD with Music for Flute and Harp with flutist Maurice Heugen appeared in 2018 on Etcetera Records.
After a period as solo-harpist of the Residentie Orchestra in The Hague she decided to concentrate on her solo-career, chamber music and coaching of young harpists.
Manja combines her passion for performing with a passion for teaching at the ArtEZ Conservatoire of Music in Zwolle and at the Prins Claus Conservatoire in Groningen.
From her profound wish to share the beauty of music with younger generations, she founded in 2008 the annual Harp Summer Masterclass in la Roche sur Foron, Haute-Savoie, France.
She is regularly invited for masterclasses and as a juror in national and international competitions.
Manja is a member of the board of the ‘Harp Vereniging Nederland’ and artistic director of the dutch national Rosa Spier Harp Competition.
© Foto Vincent Mentzel