British cellist Christopher van Kampen struck a balance between mainstream and contemporary repertoire in both orchestral and chamber performances over a remarkably varied and durable career.
He was especially well known in his native country for his frequent performances of John Tavener's The Protecting Veil, for cello and orchestra. Van Kampen was born in the Middlesex town of Pinner on September 4, 1945. He majored in math at Cambridge University's King's College, but cello lessons at the Royal Academy of Music with Douglas Cameron diverted his career path into music after he advanced to the finals of the BBC Cello Competition during his first year at the academy. In 1967 he joined the Nash Ensemble, a chamber group whose catholic repertory interests mirrored his own; he remained with the ensemble until his death, after which it played a concert in his memory. In the late '60s and early '70s, van Kampen spent three years as principal cellist of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, but his orientation toward contemporary figures such as Berio, Tippett, and Henze found a more congenial environment in smaller groups. He served as principal cellist of the London Sinfonietta in the 1970s and remaining closely associated with the group into the 1990s, when he gave premieres or major early performances of The Protecting Veil and Mark-Anthony Turnage's Kai. Several solo cello compositions were written for and premiered by van Kampen, who was also a member of the Brindisi String Quartet and other small groups. As a cello soloist he was in demand among ensembles of all kinds, and his recorded output covered repertory from Beethoven to contemporary works. "He was absolutely devoid of any professional jealousy," Nash Ensemble oboist told the Independent, "and working with him was sheer pleasure." Married and divorced from Marcia Crayford, he had one son and one daughter. He died in Pinner on September 30, 1997.