Dutch conductor and artistic director Arjan Tien with music students, Zamanje Luthuli, Sibonelo Mkhize and Wonderboy Mhlongo at the Durban Music School this week. Picture: Sbonelo Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)
DURBAN - ‘We are talking billions of rand into the economy.”

That was Dutch conductor Arjan Tien speaking this week on the income generated by the classical music industry, whether it’s through opera, ballet or orchestra. 

Tien, conductor and artistic director of the Marine Band of the Royal Netherlands Navy, one of the leading military orchestras in the world, is in Durban for the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra summer season.

He is outspoken about the value of the industry to the economy, often regarded as declining when it comes to revenue. 

“If you look back through history, it used to be the church which supported music and culture, then it changed to the royal houses and then to subsidies from governments. The industry has been looking for other streams of support, but governments should not just look at the balance sheets or underestimate their role in the economy. They must look at the bigger picture, as it does pay off.  If you look at the international output of singers and instrumentalists, and you see what level they are playing at overseas and bringing revenue into SA. Some ballet dancers and singers do extremely well and are getting top prizes in international competitions, and instrumentalists, whether soloists or with orchestras, are supporting the SA economy by bringing back into the country. We are talking billions,” said Tien.

He added that the ripple effect, such as meals and drinks after shows and parking, all add value to the industry, and should be factored into overall calculations. 

Tien is also passionate about the intrinsic value of music in the schooling system. 

“It has been found that playing an instrument helps a child with academic performance at school. I think it is the practice and focus on detail required when studying music, which then naturally follows on with other subjects,” he said.

Tien said that people who had been involved in music for a lifetime were also less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and were often also good at languages. He speaks seven languages. 

“We are talking billions of rand into the economy.” That was Dutch conductor Arjan Tien speaking on the income generated by the classical music industry, whether it’s through opera, ballet or orchestra. Video: Tanya Waterworth

Married to a South African, Tien visits the country up to five times a year. He will bring the summer season to a close on March 15 with a dynamic programme of three superbly contrasting masterworks. 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s dark-hued and sinisterly foreboding Don Giovanni Overture is geared to create an atmosphere charged with suspense before the evening’s father-and-son duo, Max Baillie (violin) and Alexander Baillie (cello), take the solo spot in a performance of Brahms’s A minor Double Concerto.

The introspective nature and finely nuanced characteristics of this great work, the composer’s final orchestral composition, offer a deeply rewarding experience for listeners as its many subtleties unfold during performance. 

Sibelius’s Second Symphony concludes the evening’s musical fare. The much-loved work marks the end of the great Finnish master’s early Romantic period. Its genesis can be traced to Sibelius’s trip to Italy in 1901, and some of his sketches from this trip surfaced in its wonderful score. After its premiere in 1902, the work underwent several revisions before achieving the popularity it enjoys today.

Tien performs in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa, and works with orchestras such as the WDR Funkhausorchester, the Royal Bangkok Symphony, the Radio Philharmonic, the Netherlands Symphony, the Arnhem Philharmonic, the North Netherlands Symphony, the South Netherlands Philharmonic, the Metropole Orchestra, the Residentie Orchestra; the Bilkent Symphony, the Antalya Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre Symphonique Bienne, the Belgrade Philharmonic, the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic, Johannesburg Philharmonic, Cape Town Philharmonic and the Chamber Orchestra of South Africa.
  • Pre-concert lectures will be held at the Alhambra Room in the Playhouse from 6pm to 6.40pm on the Thursday preceding the concert. 
  • Cost is R15. The March 15 concert starts at 7.30pm. Bookings through Computicket.