Two things become apparent on doing a Google search on Prof. Noel do Carmo Flores: his acute publicity-shyness. You won’t find interviews to the press, publicity photos, or websites listing his achievements.
On the other hand, the number of pianists who proudly mention having taken his masterclasses in their resumé is legion. As the news of Prof. Flores’ death spread, the tributes have been coming in thick and fast from all over the world.
There are so many that they’ve needed three instalments of blog posts.
The first one comes from a close friend, relative and colleague from Goa:
As a relative and a friend, and a fellow musician, I would like to share with you a few of my reminiscences of Noel Flores: We are contemporaries, so we both studied piano under Prof. Alfredo da Gama when we were young (aged 9 or 10). At that time, nobody spoke very much about Noel, about his exceptional talent. He was a playful type, and at that time didn’t dedicate himself very much to classical music. But the Don Bosco fathers saw the facility he had at the piano, his ability to improvise, accompany in any key, etc. And so they decided to send him to Spain, and then he got a Gulbenkian scholarship to study in Vienna. Whenever I met him there, he was not the sort of person to talk about himself, so one didn’t realise just how well he was doing. Such was his modesty and simplicity.
My impression of Noel was always that he was a big talent, but perhaps a little too unassuming. Nonetheless, he built a reputation for himself as a great pedagogue. He dedicated himself a lot to yoga, which he even used in his teaching, especially in avoiding strain and injury.
He was a wonderful person, such a gentleman, the look of an artist.
It’s a pity that we have no recordings of his playing.
(Professora Margarida Miranda, pianist-pedagogue, who like Noel Flores grew up in Goa and had her initiation into piano here, and then went abroad (to Germany in her case). She spent several decades teaching piano at Freiburg before returning to Goa).
Here is a two-part video where she shares her reminiscences of Prof. Noel Flores:
The other tributes collated here and in the other instalments of this tribute have been collated from the piano community all around the world who were touched by Prof. Flores and mourn his death:
I was privileged to meet Prof. Flores in summer 2003, after having won the scholarship to study with him at the summer piano academy which he held near Vienna. I recall him first of all as a kind, gentle and noble man whose love for music always bore those best human virtues in its background. Beside his wide musical mastery and highly valuable remarks on a repertoire that I studied with him, the greatest impact he left on me was his attitude about life and music. His approach was natural, simple and always in a search for the positive aspects. I will never forget the advice he gave me after our final concert: “One day when great successes will come, don’t ever forget to stay modest as you were before.” That philosophy of humanity and fairness is something that didn’t make Prof. Flores just a great artist and teacher, but also a great man. It is the most valuable thing he left to me during the short, yet rewarding time that we spent together, and I will always remember that.
(Bruno Vlahek, Croatian pianist-composer)
I am very sad to learn about the loss of Prof. Flores! I had the pleasure to meet him and his wife, Regina, many times, in Austria, Italy and Hungary. Last time we met was in Budapest during a master class he gave at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in 2007.We worked on a Haydn Sonata. But I also attended a lesson when he was teaching a Chopin nocturne. He was a very kind man and a true musician. I was deeply marked by his profound musicianship. I always felt his only concern was music, although technique is important, but has always to be in the service of music, and not the opposite. So sad to lose him!!
(Marouan Benabdallah, Hungarian-Moroccan pianist)
I started working with Prof. Flores when I was 13. I went to the masterclass of him and within few seconds I was already in love! Could not believe what my ears were hearing! The piano under control of his fingers had the most beautiful sound. I still remember those lessons. I was really impressed how much patience he had with me!
After two weeks of masterclass we have already connected. He was already telling me the things that were helpful not only for piano playing but also some very important life lessons!
After coming back home I could not stop thinking about that special man and then after a year I had another lesson! I felt again incredible energy. When I was working with him I was feeling like the world was opening to me, and I was starting to realize how much I have to learn, and I have to say I was a little frightened after that lesson, but surprisingly after the lesson he just spoke with me for some time, and had helped me even more that way. That showed his incredible spirit and humanity.
After that lesson I decided, this is the man I want to learn from as long as possible. So I came to study with him in Vienna. Every hour spent with him was a blessing. He had the most natural understanding of musical phrase and even more natural way of explaining it to the students! We became really close, and we were working every year more and more, trying to achieve technical and musical maturity, sometimes we used to work for hours without even noticing, because each word he said had substance and playing with him was fire! I was always fascinated with the way his body was very controlled but the phrases and lines he was playing were always so beautiful and there was never a single note that he would play without complete commitment to it. Prof. Flores learned me so much about the style, dynamics, rubato, technique ( which was one of his strongest fields, he would always say: " Pianists have to have perfect control of their fingers and hands so they no longer have to think about it and within project their musical ideas and thoughts to audience!"). Besides all, he also taught me many things about life, he was a true friend and also like a father to me. No matter how hard it was for me to play at his funeral, it was still a great honour playing for him the last time.
Prof. Noel do Carmo Flores was a great friend, humanist, idealist, brilliant thinker, extraordinary pianist and born professor as we should always remember him. A kind and graceful man.
(Petar Klasan, Croatian pianist in Vienna)
(An edited version of this article appeared in the Navhind Times Goa India on 19 June 2012)