Bruce Knockles, Principal Trumpet

“My first encounter with The Chamber Orchestra of Europe was in the autumn of 1984, a wonderful three weeks spent in Venice for the world premiere of Luigi Nono’s Prometeo conducted by Claudio Abbado in the Church of San Lorenzo. This was an extraordinary experience, as I was deeply interested in contemporary music, and also very keenly interested in the visual arts, so to be surrounded by the artistic treasures of Venice, whilst rehearsing this strange, haunting piece, played by the finest young musicians in Europe and led by the incomparable Abbado, was an artistic and musical paradise.

Subsequently there were concerts all around Europe and tours of America, where I was able to hear the orchestra in it’s more conventional repertoire, and in all its full glory. Particularly strong are memories of the Brahms Second Serenade, again with Abbado conducting. As anyone who played for Abbado knows, he really came to life in the concerts, and always managed to coax incredible levels of expressive intensity out of the Serenade.

Another highlight was the Berg Kammerkonzert with Heinz Holliger conducting. This was a piece I knew well from listening to the Boulez recording as a student, but rehearsing it with Holliger, with his hugely detailed knowledge of the score, uncompromising attitude to getting every nuance right, and supreme musicality, as well as the commitment shown by everyone playing, made it a revelatory experience that I will always treasure.

From an insular background, my parents never once left the UK, the European aspect of the orchestra was also a revelation, suddenly surrounded by multilingual musicians from many different countries, I realised that I had a lot of catching up to do linguistically, but that experience of different, though closely related cultures, gave me a strong sense of being part of a wider Europe, and when I left the orchestra this European feeling intensified further, Matthew Wilkie, COE’s longtime bassoonist, had introduced me to Ensemble Modern of Frankfurt, another multinational group, and with whom I went on to have a long association.

Though my time with the orchestra was relatively short, it had a big impact on my life for which I will always be grateful and I am very glad to be able to say that I am part of the extended Chamber Orchestra of Europe family.”


After studying music at York University and whilst still at the Royal Academy of Music, Bruce Nockles began playing trumpet with Sir Peter Maxwell Davies group The Fires of London, rapidly developing a reputation as an expert in the performance of contemporary music. Soon after, he also became principal trumpet of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. He was a member of Endymion Ensemble, performs regularly with The London Sinfonietta and many other new music ensembles throughout the UK and Europe, and in particular was for many years a close associate and member of Ensemble Modern of Frankfurt.

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