Pamela Smits is the founder, and since 2013 Artistic Director, of the Foundation Vriendenconcerten. She is the driving force and “heart and soul” of this concert series that takes place in the Zuiderkerk Amsterdam. She invites top musicians who, with their excellence and infectious enthusiasm, create an intimate ambience in which they engage the audience. 

Commissioned by the Board of the Foundation Vriendenconcerten, she gives shape to the concert series in the Zuiderkerk. For this season she has invited pianist Nicolas van Poucke as Artist in Residence.


About cellist Pamela Smits...

Pamela Smits - Foto: Foppe Schut

Canadian-born Dutch cellist Pamela Smits has received wide acclaim for her phenomenal command of technique, her expression, and her distinctive musical presence and charisma. She enjoys a varied career, which combines appearances as a cello soloist, chamber musician, and educator. “Smits’s technical wizardry is nothing short of amazing, but it’s secured in service to an equally instinctive musicality.”-American Fanfare. Her extensive repertoire reflects her broad musical interests and encompasses works from the Baroque and Romantic periods to contemporary music.

She has toured extensively throughout Europe and elsewhere, performing in the United States, South America, the Antilles, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Israel, and Finland, and played recitals in the Kleine Zaal of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Mozarteum in Salzburg, the Meistersaal in Berlin, and at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland. As a soloist she has appeared with orchestras on both sides of the Atlantic, performing cello concertos such as C.P.E. Bach No.3, J.S. Bach (arr. Double concerto for 2 Violins) Beethoven's Triple concerto, Boccherini B-flat, van Gompel, Gulda, Händel for 2 Cellos, Haydn C and D major, Hans Kox, Schumann, Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations and Vivaldi (Double Concerto for 2 Cellos and Double Concerto for Violin & Cello).

"Pamela Smits is superb.. with a clear mastery of her instrument, excellent intonation and a deep expression in her performance." -Nick Peros, Phoenix Classical, Canada

Pamela has several world premieres to her name: the 2nd Cello Solo Sonata (2013) of Hans Kox dedicated to her; the Requiem Infinite Compassion (2014) for cello solo, choir, and orchestra specially written for her by Frank van Gompel; and Shadows Fade (2023) on a theme from Mozart's Lacrimosa for cello solo and string orchestra by Heather Pinkham. This last piece was written especially for, and dedicated to, Pamela and the Netherlands Youth String Orchestra (NJSO) with conductor Carel den Hertog, who presented it in a mini-tour together in June 2023 in The Netherlands. Currently both Heather Pinkham and Orkun Ağır are writing new works for cello solo for Pamela which will be performed in season 23/24.

“The Sonata, dedicated to her, fits her like a glove: musical extremes that demand great technical skill.. The soulful playing of Smits inexorably impresses that despair upon the listener...The last movement provides ample scope to Smits’ intuitive almost improvising way of playing.”  -Haarlems Dagblad, the Netherlands.

In 2010, Pamela was invited for three seasons by the Posthuis Theater in Heerenveen (NL) to create her own annual series of seven concerts; the Pamela Smits and Friends Concerts, where she performed with acclaimed artists such as violinist Isabelle van Keulen and trumpettist Peter Masseurs, and organized masterclasses. Pamela regularly gives recitals, such as with German pianist Sabine Simon, with whom she has been collaborating for almost 25 years, performing in joint recitals in various tours together in the USA, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands. With pianist/composer Olli Mustonen, she gave a well-received recital in Amsterdam (2021), including the performance of Mustonen’s Taivaanvalot (Heavenly Lights 2019) for tenor, cello and piano, together with Mexican baritone Emmanuel Franco and the composer behind the grand piano. She has been collaborating regularly with Dutch pianist Tobias Borsboom ever since 2017 after inviting him as a guest-programmer of the concert series Vriendenconcerten. Their playing was immediately met with great enthusiasm by the press and public: 

“They enchanted with their playing ..There two poets of the keys and strings had found each other.”  - Westdeutsche Zeitung, Germany.

Pamela has recorded several CDs; Felix Austria and The French Cello with German pianist Sabine Simon; All time Favourites with pianist Maarten den Hengst; Die Todesfrau by Hans Kox with flautist Abbie de Quant and the Netherlands Chamber Choir; and Hungarian Canvas with pianist Tobias Borsboom, including Kodály Sonata for Solo Cello Opus 8

An avid chamber musician, Ms. Smits has collaborated with acclaimed artists such as the Miami String Quartet; clarinettist Michael Collins; pianists Olli Mustonen, Paolo Giacometti, and Jee Won Oh; violinists Isabelle van Keulen, Jaime Laredo, Elisabeth Perry; and many others. She has worked intensively with violinist Tosca Opdam in the past two seasons as Artist In Residence for the Vriendenconcerten series. She is the founding cellist of the Pentachord Ensemble; with violinist Emi Ohi Resnick, violist Mikhail Zemtsov, double bass player Quirijn van Regteren Altena, and pianist Maarten den Hengst; and the Voyager Trio, with saxophonist Arno Bornkamp and pianist Tobias Borsboom.

In 2008 Pamela gave a masterclass via an at-the-time pioneering high-speed internet connection in collaboration with Internet2, InHolland, and the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, which was viewed at universities all over the world. She has given masterclasses in Germany, the United States, and the Netherlands, at such locations as Duke University, Newark Academy in New York (USA), the NRC Café in Amsterdam (Netherlands), the Akademie für Tonkunst in Darmstadt, and was for four seasons the cello and chamber music teacher of the summer course at the Landesmusikakademie Hessen in Schlitz (Germany). Having taught since the age of 16, she also served as a teaching assistant to Jirí Prchal at the Stedelijk Conservatory Leeuwarden for three years.  From 1994 to 1997, she was the principal cellist of the New World Symphony directed by Michael Tilson Thomas.

Ms. Smits studied with Czech cellist Jiří Prchal at Stedelijk Conservatory Leeuwarden, with Jean Decroos (principal cellist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra at the time) at Sweelinck Conservatory Amsterdam, and with Janos Starker at Indiana University, Bloomington (USA). She participated in summer courses and masterclasses given by Anner Bylsma, Lynn Harrell, Steven Isserlis, Paul Tortelier, Miloš Sádlo, Ivan Monighetti, Saša Večtomov Ivan Monighetti, Natalia Gutman, and the renowned pianist/teacher György Sebök in Ernen, Switzerland. 



About cellist Nicolas van Poucke...

Nicolas van Poucke

The internationally-acclaimed pianist Nicolas van Poucke belongs to the top of a new generation of young pianists in the Netherlands. He won many prizes and has performed both solo and with orchestra on important stages at home and abroad.

Nicolas was born into a family of professional musicians. The piano, which he took up at age six, quickly became the faithful companion for expressing a love of music that, even today, thrives as much on opera, orchestra, and chamber music as on the piano repertoire. After an highly acclaimed recital in a sold-out Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Dutch music magazine De Nieuwe Muze dubbed Nicolas “one of the original young freethinkers among Dutch pianists.”

Nicolas made his debut at the Concertgebouw at the age of thirteen and has since performed at such venues as Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Philharmonie Berlin, and Philharmonie Essen. In addition, other tours have taken him to Cuba (Havana Mozart Festival), Korea (Changwon and Tongyeong), Italy, France, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Albania, Great Britain, Canada, and the United States.  

As a soloist he has appeared with various orchestras performing piano concertos by Mozart, Beethoven, Gershwin, Poulenc, and Rachmaninoff, and he is a regular guest with the Camerata RCO. In December 2020 he made his debut with the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra with Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto.

“His elegant dexterity is impressive, but what resonates is how he makes the instrument speak meaningfully. For example, when he imitates the rebellious strings with his left hand in a slightly teasing way, before whispering his calming rebuttal. A true poetic musician.”-De Volkskrant, The Netherlands.

Recently, Nicolas soloed with the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra and has given recitals in renowned venues such as the Concertgebouw, Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, Concertgebouw de Vereeniging Nijmegen, and also made his London debut in the Royal Festival Hall with Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto.

An avid chamber musician, Nicolas has worked with such artists as Colin Carr, Christiaan Bor, Claudio Bohorquez, Marie-Elisabeth Hecker, Godfried Hoogeveen, Gil Sharon, Andreas Reiner, Igor Roma, Pavel Vernikov, and his sister Ella van Poucke. In 2006 he won both the Princess Christina Competition and the Steinway International Piano Competition, in 2009 he was laureate of the European Union Piano Competition, and in 2010 of the YPF Piano Competition.

Van Poucke's discography is growing steadily. His most recent solo album, In The Moment, on the London label Night Dreamer, is a direct-to-disc album of two Beethoven sonatas recorded in one continuous unedited take. His album The Schumann Collection Vol. l on TRPTK received high acclaim in the press; as stated by Erik Voermans in Het Parool: "There are not many pianists who manage to approach this musically and psychologically complex world with such a level of natural ease." The Schumann Collection Vol. ll is scheduled for release October 2023.

Nicolas studied with David Kuyken and Jan Wijn at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. Additionally, he has been mentored by the world-renowned pianists Martha Argerich., Murray Perahia, Alfred Brendel.