A year ago today, my dear friend and colleague, Coen van der Heide (12th June,1948 - 21st October, 2011), died. Far too soon and far too fast, I was forced to accept, together with many others who knew and loved him, the absence of a gentle-man with a great heart and an open mind, just like another great man, Christopher Hitchens, who died only two months after him in the same year. The world and humanity, every day so debased and tormented by ignorance and greed, have lost, with the absence of such men as these, the influence and example that they brought for all of us to learn from: of love, generosity, intelligence, passion, honesty and sheer love of life.
I knew little of Coen's private life. My relationship with him was primarily a musical one, but one that was as warm, intimate and intense as any personal relationship I have ever had. But then Coen had a way of making everyone who worked with him fall in love with him and, in that heightened state, outshine themselves. He reminds me of another great conductor, Simon Rattle, whom I witnessed wooing a great, internationally-acclaimed orchestra like the Rotterdam Philharmonic, in which Coen led the viola section for many years, onto a whole new plateau of brilliance. Coen used his same irresistible powers to make light work of the far more difficult task of leading, coaching and inspiring a short-term, projects-based amateur symphony orchestra like 'Intermezzo' and a string ensemble like the 'Tollens Ensemble' to make music on a level far exceeding that which they or anyone else thought possible and, in doing so, provided hours of enjoyment and deep musical and emotional satisfaction to many, many people, both those playing in the ensembles and those listening to them.
As a singer and musician, I also experienced this uncanny talent of Coen's to, in some way, unlock a hidden extra level of energy and concentration within myself, which I have seldom equalled with other conductors, even internationally-renowned ones. One of the projects which will always remain one of the most unforgettable pinnacles of my career took place in 1997, when Coen made it possible for me to fulfil an ardent wish of mine to sing Hector Berlioz's song-cycle 'Les nuits d'été'. I would therefore like to dedicate to his memory one of the songs of this cycle called 'Absence' with the recording we made together.
Hilary Reynolds, 21st. October, 2012