Soloist: Samson Diamond

Words: Peta Stewart

Bloemfontein may be home to violinist Samson Diamond, where he is leader of the Odeion String Quartet at the University of the Free State, and concertmaster of the Free State Symphony Orchestra (FSSO), but with a career that takes him all over the country and elsewhere, it may not be forever!

Diamond, who appears as a soloist with all South African orchestras, will be in Cape Town to play, with cellist Anmari van der Westhuizen and pianist Albie van Schalkwyk, playing the Triple Concerto, one of the most popular concerti written by Beethoven. It will form the central part of the final concert in the current Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra’s 11th International Summer Music Festival, and takes place on Sunday, February 5, at the Cape Town City Hall at 8pm.

Samson was a child prodigy, he became a member of Buskaid in 1994 at the age of 10 after he enrolled himself in a local community music project in Diepkloof, Soweto. This where he met Rosemary Nalden, who three years later founded the Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble. Diamond was a founding members and leader of the ensemble. It was with Buskaid that he made his first appearance in Cape Town, and of course appeared many times with them overseas and on local and British television, in particular.

What Buskaid did for him is, he says, “ immeasurable. Apart from assisting with my tuition fees from high school to my bachelor’s degree in Manchester, I was so well mentored by Rosemary who was also my violin tutor.”

Diamond’s first professional engagement was with the Halle Orchestra playing  Ein Heldenleben. It was conducted by Sir Mark Elder and was, he says, “most liberating and with the most glorious sound!”. After matriculating in 2001, at the age of 17, in 2002 Diamond was accepted to study at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) in Manchester where he was awarded his B Mus with Hons First Class, and then offered a full scholarship to RNCM for a Masters in performance which he was awarded in 2007.

He always knew he would come home and so he did in 2010.  At the time, he could have gone to another country after his burgeoning career in England  where he played under the baton of conductors like Eliot Gardiner, Marriner, Noseda and Tortelier and for people like Queen Elizabeth, but it was home he chose. He notes, somewhat ironically, that returning home is seen as a sign of failure! “I should have joined the growing number of expatriates and that would have been seen as a success!” On the other hand, performing for Archbishop Tutu and Nelson Mandela could also be counted as a great success here!

“Bloemfontein is perfect for now. I have great opportunities working on a variety of projects with the quartet. I still receive plenty of invitations to perform elsewhere and I find that Bloemfontein helps to keep me grounded in some ways. Of course then it’s more important to be out of town a bit more so you remain ‘visible’ and relevant,” he says.

Also on the programme are Beethoven’s Fidelio overture and the Pathetique Symphony by Tchaikovsky, which will be conducted by Brandon Phillips, the CPO’s resident conductor, will be preceded by a pre-concert talk by Rodney Trudgeon at 7.15pm in the Sunken Lounge.

When, where: Sun, Feb 5, Cape Town City Hall, at 8pm

Tickets: R100 – R230

Book: Artscape Dial-a-Seat on 021 421 7695, Computicket 0861 915 8000,

Info: 021 410 9809,