Noor Kamerbeek, Principal Flute

“The Chamber Orchestra of Europe felt like a continuation of the ECYO, since so many players stayed on. But there was a big difference too, the repertoire. Refinement is the word I still feel when I think back on those concerts. Every note, every tone mattered. With the soloists and conductors of the highest rank in front of you, performing in the most important concert halls around the world, less quality was no option. This became part of my being. I still do everything with the utmost concentration and aim for the best quality. Some people don’t like that, find it pompous, it’s not very Dutch. But luckily, others feel inspired by it.

Two people will stay forever with me: Claudio Abbado and Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Abbado was a conductor who didn’t force anything, but had an aura that made you want to give the best of your abilities. When I’m in a conversation about an authoritarian conductor, I always tell about Abbado. He never raised his voice, never pointed at a musician, never looked irritated, but got the best results. Harnoncourt too was a game-changer for me. During these first ten years of the COE, we played a lot of Haydn and Mozart. His ‘new’ view on this music was not easily accepted by everybody. For me it was crystal clear: this was the way to do it, the music sounded so much more alive. I bought a beautiful 19th century wooden flute, long before it became fashionable, and played a lot of Bach Cantates and a wealth of other repertoire.

Of course there were also things happening on COE-tours. Here are two of my gaffes:

I forgot all my music in a hotel in Sicily, with a concert in Rome the next day. After arriving, I had to write all my parts by hand from scores, to be able to play that concert. Luckily I got it done in time.

On another tour, we played a concert in Versailles, all dressed up in black costumes and black wigs. I played also the solo-part in an Aria from Rossini’s opera Il Viaggio a Reims and had to be on stage with the solo-singer. For this, I was sent to the costume department to be fitted in a colorful dress. When I came there, the French costumieres looked at me very disapprovingly, since I’m a very tall, thin Dutch girl. What to do? They teared the frock from a dress and stuck an incredible amount of safety pins in the frock and upperpart. It made the dress 5 centimeters longer… With a sash they hid all these pins that were pricking against my body. There had been only a music rehearsal on stage, so during the concert, I stayed put on one point, concentrating on my part. There came the singer. He took me by the arm and had me walk over the stage with him, he singing, I playing. I had only one thought: please, don’t let the safety pins spring open. Then I had some bars rest. My mind was buzzing with everything that happened, and yes, I forgot my line, I think for three or four bars. Not to worry, nobody in the public knows. The Aria finished, I made a beautiful bow and left relieved the stage. None of the safety pins had opened. Backstage an angry man came towards me. Didn’t I realize that I screwed up the whole production by not playing those bars? The video could not be sold now. There were cameras, yes, we were used to that. But nobody had told me that this was a commercial production. One point down for me. A few months later, a colleague phoned: ‘Hi Noor, was that you yesterday night on tv with Rossini? Nice!’ I had totally missed it. Well, it seemed that the production was not ruined by me after all…”


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