Obituary: Christopher van Kampen
Saturday 04 October 1997
The cellist Christopher van Kampen was a gifted and versatile soloist and chamber music player who was equally at home with the music of Haydn and Mozart as that of the most avant-garde composers of the present time.
Van Kampen read Mathematics at King's College, Cambridge, and studied the cello with Douglas Cameron at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where in his first year he became a finalist in the BBC Cello Competition. In 1967 he became the cellist of the Nash Ensemble, with whom he continued to perform world-wide right up to his death. In 1969, at the age of 24, he was appointed Principal Cellist of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, a position he held for three years.
In 1968 van Kampen had played in the inaugural concert of the London Sinfonietta and in the early 1970s became Principal Cellist. Over the years he appeared as a soloist with most of the leading British orchestras and played in a number of chamber music ensembles, including the Brindisi String Quartet.
He specialised in contemporary music and collaborated with and performed under many celebrated composers including Luciano Berio, Hans Werner Henze and Sir Michael Tippett. In 1988 he gave the first performance of Hans Abraham's Lied in Fall, a work written especially for him, and in 1990 gave the UK premiere of H.K. Gruber's Cello Concerto, which he also played in the 1991 Proms. He was closely associated with John Tavener's The Protecting Veil for cello and orchestra, which he played many times in the UK and abroad, including the 1992 Aldeburgh Festival with the London Sinfonietta. He performed Benjamin Britten's complete works for the solo cello at the Wigmore Hall and once played both Shostakovich's cello concertos at the same concert at St John's Smith Square.
His numerous solo recordings included music from Janacek, Hindemith and Debussy to Schubert, and he also made many recordings with the Nash Ensemble where again the music ranged from Debussy and Ravel to Beethoven, Brahms and Dvorak.
His fellow musicians appear to have nothing but admiration and affection for him. Gareth Hulse, oboist of the Nash Ensemble, told me: "He was always very excited when he discovered a new young cello talent and would encourage and assist wherever it was possible. He was absolutely devoid of any professional jealousy and working with him was sheer pleasure."
The concert given by the Nash Ensemble on 5 October as part of the South Bank's Raising Sparks Festival will be dedicated to his memory. On 13 October, with the viola player Paul Silverthorne and the London Sinfonietta under Martyn Brabbins, he was due to give the world premiere of Alexander Raskatov's double concerto Miserere in memoriam Oleg Kagan, as part of the Dimensions Festival at the South Bank; this concert will now also be dedicated to his memory.
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