Arjan Tien will be in Cape Town to conduct the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra as part of the Winter Symphony Season 2019. PETA STEWART finds out more:

Arjan Tien with Bruckner

A full-time position as chief conductor and artistic director of the Marine Band of the Royal Netherlands Navy has broadened the career of Arjan Tien, guest conductor of the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra in its second concert in the Winter Symphony Season.  Tien will be in Cape Town to conduct the 4th Symphony by Bruckner and La Calinda by Delius, as well as accompany the brilliant Russian cellist Alexander Ramm in the Sinfonia Concertante by Prokofiev. The concert takes place at the City Hall on Thursday, 13 June 2019.

Arjan Tien still has time to teach orchestral conducting at the Academy of Music in Maastricht as well as accept some 15 weeks of guest conducting engagements – two of which will be here in Cape Town and the week before with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra.

About the Marine Band of the Netherlands Navy he says: “It is an honour and a privilege to be able to work with one of the leading military orchestras in the world. The band recently performed in Great Britain, Norway, Germany and the Caribbean. Last year it signed an exclusive CD contract with Channel Classics, and is recording a series of CDs with original music for symphonic wind band by classical composers such as Rimsky-Korsakov, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Hindemith, Strauss and  Schönberg. Its first CD received international critical acclaim – it was awarded 5 stars by, amongst other magazines, BBC Music.”

Arjan Tien with Bruckner

Early musical start

Arjan Tien was introduced to music by his father, who was a choir conductor and high school teacher. “Once I started playing the violin and viola, it became clear, pretty much straight away, that I wanted to become a professional musician. I started playing in orchestras at the age of nine, and soon after that making chamber music as well,” he says.

He became very interested in the phenomenon of conducting. “When I was 16, I was asked to conduct an orchestra. I also had to arrange virtually all the repertoire that we were going to play. The seed was planted …

“In 1990 I became principal violist of the Dutch National Youth Orchestra, and the section leaders formed a chamber orchestra of the best players. I conducted that orchestra on an international tour through central Europe and things got a bit more serious,” Tien says.

In 1992 he joined the viola section of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and started to conduct more and more. He soon became assistant conductor of that orchestra, won first prize “Rotary-Faller” at the competition of the International Conducting Master Class in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland in 1997, and international engagements kept on coming.

“I got to the point where conducting became so time consuming, that there was simply no time to continue playing,” Tien explains. That was in 2005 and the next year he began a six year tenure as artistic director and principal conductor of the Magogo Chamber Orchestra, putting together highly adventurous and innovative programmess, including over sixty world premieres. From 2008 to 2016, he also was the principal conductor of the Atheneaum Chamber Orchestra at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague.

Arjan Tien with Bruckner

Cape Town Philharmonic a pleasure!

One of the orchestras to engage him in those early years, in 2001, was the Cape Town Philharmonic, and he soon became one of its popular guest conductors, coming back each year or two. “The ambition and drive of the orchestra has been, and remains for nearly two decades now, an inspiration. It is a pleasure to work with them,” he says. Tien is looking forward to the Bruckner, in particular.

“I love conducting his Romantic symphony –  the medieval Austrian world he shows us in this symphony is so picturesque, his symphonic colours (orchestration) unique, instantly recognisable and his landscapes simply ‘grand.”

To take this further, he adds: “What excites me in music is trying to understand and recreate the world of the composer, learning about their personal life, the historical / social context and how they communicate their ideas and ideals to us. The emotions and stories are universal and timeless. Interpreting and performing that with a large body of musicians, inspiring or sometimes comforting audiences, is a unique and wonderful way to spend one’s life.”

Tien comes to Cape Town via the JPO and his orchestra in The Netherlands and the Philharmonie Südwestfalen in Germany, and leaves our shores, having reconnected with friends and family, for concerts and TV recordings in the Netherlands and Austria.

Tien is married to the CPO’s former principal clarinet Maria du Toit. “All our four kids play musical instruments, so home sometimes sounds like a local music school!” he laughs.

What: CPO Winter Symphony season, conductor Arjan Tien

Where and when: Cape Town City Hall on 13 June 2019

Book: Artscape Dial-A-Seat on 021 421 7695 or