Dutch Student Chamber Orchestra Nesko puts female composers in the spotlight on King’s Day

22 Apr 2022

Traditionally, the world of classical music is dominated by male composers, such as Mozart, Beethoven and Strauss. Female composers, on the other hand, are much less famous. The Dutch Student Chamber Orchestra (Nesko) wants to put these women in the spotlight during a concert in Nijmegen.

The division between males and females in the world of classical music used to be different from today, clarinettist Tim Huijbregts (24), who is also the treasurer of Nesko and a Master’s student in physics at Radboud University, explains. ‘Women were not accepted in the classical music world. If they released music, it was usually under male pseudonyms or under their brother’s name. Only then was the music taken seriously.’

Although women have not had to hide for decades, nowadays male composers are still predominant. ‘And that ensures that (student) orchestras often choose a man’s work more quickly. So it is quite special that Nesko is playing the work of Louise Farrenc (a French composer from the 19th century, ed.) as the main piece,’ says Huijbregts.

Odd one out

Nesko is already the odd one out among other Dutch student orchestras. Those who sign up for the Nijmegen orchestras QHarmony or Collegium Musicum Carolinum (CMC) are often required to commit for several months or years. Nesko, on the other hand, only performs one week a year. ‘We rehearse for a week and then tour the Netherlands for another week. Then the orchestra is disbanded again.’

Tim Huijbregts. Photo: Nesko

But isn’t a week of rehearsals before a tour a bit short? ‘Well, yes,’ says Huijbregts somewhat tired. ‘The rehearsal week is very intensive. We start at 10 am and go on until 10 pm. Fortunately, we get to take the compositions home beforehand, so we can practice in our own time. This rehearsal week we are putting the finishing touches to it. It helps that we are not a large orchestra, so the lines of communication are short.’

Nesko is smaller than an average orchestra and is part of the so-called chamber orchestras. ‘For comparison: in the main hall of the Vereeniging you often see orchestras consisting of sixty or seventy people. We – as a chamber orchestra – have forty.’  This smaller group has the effect that the music is less bombastic and each musician has an important role. So the bar for quality in this orchestra is high: ‘Every year, you have to audition again for a place in the orchestra. This also applies to the people playing in the orchestra this year; they don’t get preferential treatment. If someone is better, they are allowed a place in the orchestra. We go for quality over quantity.’

Playing without problems

Four students from Radboud University are participating this year, including Huijbregts. ‘This is the first and last time I will be playing with my clarinet. In the summer I graduate and I will not be allowed to participate anymore.’ Huijbregts is quite lucky, because the covid restrictions made it so Nesko was not allowed to tour for two years. ‘And that is a shame, because we are really only active during these two weeks in April.’

‘Now we can play without problems’

As a member of the board, Huijbregts did spend a little longer preparing for the tour than other orchestra members. ‘We started in September with all the preparations, but until March we were not sure whether everything would go ahead.’ So the chamber orchestra already took into account QR code scanners, possible quarantines and other unexpected covid restrictions. ‘But none of that is necessary. Now we can start playing without any problems. It has gone incredibly fast and that is great,’ Huijbregts concludes with a smile to his voice. ‘We are looking forward to it.’

During King’s Day on the 27th of April, Nesko will perform in the Antonius van Padua Church in Nijmegen. The concert starts at 3 pm and ends around 5.15 pm. The tickets are available online and for sale at the door for 17,50 euros. Students pay 12,50 euros.

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