At the conducting course of Arvid Jansons, Weimar 1973.
Photo: Neues Deutschland
MY FIRST STEPS
Born into a family which could claim five generations of musicians, I always have taken music very seriously. Music was destined to play an important role in my life.
When I started to play the violin at eight, my teacher, Joachim Röntgen, allowed me to attend his chamber music coaching at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. Thus, by the age of ten I already was very familiar with string quartets by Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms. My predilection for chamber music has accompanied me since.
In my teens I was a driven violin player, especially within the school orchestra of the Gymnasium Haganum. Its leader, Jen Brans, stimulated not only the music- making itself, but was also important in shaping my musical taste.
Academic studies in music seemed to be more appropriate than a practical ones and so I entered the University of Utrecht in 1963.
Eduard Reeser, the first Professor of Musicology and Head of the Department, had over the course of years built up an institute with first-class teachers and facilities such as a reference library of international standing. It was a sheer feast to attend his lectures and those of Hélène Wagenaar-Nolthenius, Alphons Asselbergs, Henk Badings and Herman Strategier. I obtained a first class education in musicology, from which I was later often to benefit. I also enjoyed other opportunities in the Utrecht academic environment studying Russian and the history of Russia in the 19th and early 20th Centuries.
At the same time I was a member of the Utrechtsch Studenten Corps, a club that provided ample opportunities in performing classical music. There was a chamber orchestra conducted by Joop van Zon, a professional conductor and pianist of international stature. As violist in this orchestra I performed a varied repertoire ranging from Mozart Piano Concertos to Pijper’s Incidental music for Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. In my first year I founded with class mates a string quartet that was to function successfully for the next six years. Finally, a small ensemble -Tzigane – that performed Hungarian and Roumanian gypsy music welcomed me as its second violin.
These musical activities were conducted very seriously. As a string-quartet we regularly took lessons with Bouw Lemkes, and learned among many other things, how to perform microtone music, this for the premiere of the Fourth String Quartet by Henk Badings. We also worked regularly with Nap de Klijn, the primarius of The Netherlands String Quartet. I went to Hungary to be instructed by Oláh Kálmán on how to fulfil the role of primasz (first violin ) and also played as second violin in his orchestra at the Kulacs Restaurant in Budapest.
When I left university, I still was highly interested in becoming a performer. Aware that I was pursuing somehow a late vocation, I took the entrance examinations at the Royal Conservatory of Music in The Hague for viola and conducting, passed these, and ploughed through the curriculum. My teachers there were Jürgen Kussmaul for viola and Louis Stotijn for conducting. During the summers I attended many conducting couses including Salzburg, Weimar and Hilversum. In 1977 I was assistent to Arvid Jansons during one of his guest appearances with the Hallé Orchestra.