Talking about her career, when it comes to chamber music, solo piano, concertos, accompaniment to lieder and teaching, comes easily to Esthea Kruger writes PETA STEWART.

Kruger is the soloist in the Mozart Piano Concerto no 20, in the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra’s final Summer Cyber Symphony concert. This will be streamed from 15 to 19 April, 2021.

It’s when she was asked which was her preference that stopped her in her tracks!

“I can’t choose because all of them are so important to me. Teaching makes me a better performer and performing makes me a better teacher,” she says. “Accompanying art songs has exposed me to a more intimate sound control and nuances that improve my solo performance. The energy that comes from working with other people is enormous. I can’t do without any of them!”

Esthea, who came back from Germany to teach at the SA College of Music in 2019, always knew she would be back. “I felt so privileged to study and work in America and Germany that it became my ambition to return and teach what I had been fortunate enough to learn. My ideal was always to work in a university environment so when the position at UCT came up.”

CPO cyber symphony series Esthea Kruger
Picture: Joan Ward


She completed her B Mus and M Mus at the University of Stellenbosch with Nina Schumann and Luis Magalhāes, winning many prizes, before winning an audition to study for her doctorate with their teacher, Vladimir Viardo at the University of North Texas.

It was a practical doctorate which required her to attend lectures and perform, but after those three years, degree in hand, she realized that she had much more to learn.

Fortunately, before she went to Texas she had been to Germany to play for a number of teachers and Würzburg was her choice to do a Meisterklasse performance diploma and specialise in art song.  While there, as Lied accompanist she was awarded the pianist prize each of three years at the Armin Knab Singing Competition of the Hochschule für Musik. In 2018 she performed at a young artists’ concert in the Davos Festival in Switzerland.

All the time, though, Esthea Kruger was thinking about the future, “the level of teaching in South Africa is as good as that in Europe, but I knew I could make much more of a contribution here because there are fewer of us with the required skills,” she says.

Once she accepted the post at UCT she had to quickly organize her life and the main challenge there was that she had married a German law student.

“We had discussed my returning to Cape Town at the start of our relationship and he always said he would be happy to come too. Now qualified, he joined me at the end of last year. One aspect of Covid has been good for us –working remotely has become a way of life and being a German lawyer based in South Africa with clients overseas is quite possible.”

Neues Lied Festival

One of the aspects of Covid that has not been good for her is that she couldn’t perform herself, and had to cancel her annual festival in Germany  – she is founder and artistic director of Neues Lied Festival for contemporary art song, which was awarded a cultural prize by the City of Würzburg last  year.  She had to postpone the introduction of a new South African festival planned for August last year.

That Esthea and Christoph have settled is clear from the fact that they have adopted a dog and enjoyed being spoiled living temporarily with her parents in Stellenbosch with its proximity to the mountains and its walks. But the holiday is over and they now have a home in Cape Town, where the dog still gets his walks!

Life has been busy. She, like most teachers, transitioned to online teaching last year, but life is more normal with in-person teaching this year. That was intensive, she says, wanting to always ensure the student gets the best. But then she knew teaching was intense – she has two university music professors in her blood line – James May (formerly at UCT) and Heinrich van der Mescht (formerly at Pretoria University) are first cousins once removed. She grew up in a home with classical music played often, and when she was three was told, having accompanied her older brother to his piano lessons, that she was too young to start with her own lessons. But fascinated, she remained, and two years later she had her first lesson.

On the concert programme at the concert which was filmed with a small audience at the Hugo Lambrechts Music Auditorium, is Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony. The concert was conducted by the CPO’s principal conductor, Bernhard Gueller.

What: Summer Cyber Symphonies 2021
With: Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Bernhard Gueller, Conductor; Esthea Kruger (piano)
When: Streamed on the Quicket platform. Full series from 25 March, this concert 15 – 19 April 2021
Book tickets: Here.