Apr 11

South Africa’s Appetite for its Orchestras’ Future

by Isha Ranchod


It is lunch-time when we meet, but Arndt Auhagen agrees to forgo nourishment in favour of conversation. A further interlude is provided by an impromptu brass performance on the open sports field –


“This will be too lovely to miss!”


We eventually settle outside on the couches, where Auhagen explains how he came to be a tutor for SANYO’s young violinists.


The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO), for which Auhagen plays second violin, visited South Africa in 2013 on their 125th anniversary world tour, and that was when, with a kind of contract-signing, a very active collaboration was created.  Musicians from RCO come here to work with and tutor the SANYO members; and young musicians from SANYO go to Amsterdam to join the RCO in listening to the rehearsals, making chamber music, receiving lessons, and being involved in all that happens in the orchestra.



Western classical music, Auhagen thinks, is good for everybody, whether they are South African or not:


“Because it’s so international and is played around the whole world in orchestras and ensembles, if we bring young people from South Africa together playing this same music, we put them all on one global level, thinking in the same direction, feeling the same emotions – it makes them one big musical community, and also an international community.”


European musicians in South Africa often remark on the openness of our young musicians. Auhagen learns as he teaches, he says.


“What I’m learning here in South Africa is about being open, and not making judgements too early.  Sometimes in Europe, when you teach, there are pieces which are quite common and popular and you would say, ‘Yeah, but usually it is played like this.’ Here, students are willing to try everything, with this huge flexibility and curiosity. Everybody should be like that, because then you get into the music the deepest, as you have no prejudices about habits.  You just let it come into you, and then the music lifts you up.  This is very important.”


And so the ability to think out of the box is working to our young musos’ advantage.  In the context of the global musical community that Auhagen mentioned as a platform for our youth orchestra members, this attitude and approach to the seemingly rigid Western classical musical repertoire will set them apart from the rest.


Arndt Auhagen can have lunch later.