Interview with Arno Bornkamp (English version)


Today we are going to interview one of the most important saxophonists worldwide.

He has performed 250 concerts with different orchestras.

Together with the great pianist Ivo Jansen he formed a magnificent duo with whom he has made many recordings.

It belongs to the mythical Aurelia Saxophone Quartet.

Professor of the Conservatory of Amsterdam, in which he has had Spanish students such as David Cristóbal Litago, Juan Pedro Luna, Javier Alloza, Juani Palop, Samuel Sánchez, Alberto Sáez, Antonio Sola, Alberto Tárraga, Juanma González Díaz, María Domínguez Ramos, Carlos Giménez Martinez

Today we interviewed Arno Bornkamp.

SaxRules: What do you feel while you watch the video?  (Prinsengrachtconcert playing Devil’s Rag and Iturralde’s Pequeña Czarda)

Arno: That was a great moment in my life as a saxophone-player: live-tv in this great atmosphere and then for so many people! I also played 3rd movement of the Hot-Sonate, Intermezzo from Bizet’s Arlesienne and Demersseman (other youtube-video’s). It’s about 20 years ago. Many things have changed since then, but it stays a magnificent memory

SaxRules: You have been invited to many masterclasses to Spain, the last one was in Arjona (Jaén). What do you think about the level of the spanish saxophone players?

14725536_10209895487177398_5595261006926132382_nArno: The level of the professional Spanish saxophone-players I would call generally very good. There is a huge potential of saxophonists, originally coming from the culture of the «Banda» (which is big in Spain). My experience is, that the technical level of the Spanish saxophonist has always been usually very good. In the last few years I see and hear, that there is an opening up in terms of sound colours (before the idea’s of sound in Spain were quite closed). Together with that, the intonation is generally improving (this I always found the weak point). I have been happy to welcome quite a lot of Spanish students in my class in Amsterdam and I’m proud of what they all have achieved.


SaxRules: How do you describe your career as a teacher at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam?

Arno: In the 20 years, that I’m teaching here, the landscape of music-education has drastically changed. In 1996 my class consisted of 75 % Dutch and 25 % international students. Now it is the other way around. It has given me and my teaching a lot of richness, having been able to teach people from so many different nationalities and cultures. I have always wanted to have pluriformity in my class: different personalities with different sounds and solutions for musical dilemma’s, like it is in the ‘real’ world. And I always strived for mutual understanding among the students: that is what we need in our (musical) life. Maybe that approach has led to a very active saxophone-quartet-culture in my class: they are all very passionate and hardworking and many of the quartets have won prizes at competitions.

For the rest I can say, that I try to educate in a ‘holistic’ way. That means, that I include my and the student’s personality in the teaching and that my musical statements are the product of a big variety of activities: solo, with piano, with orchestra, in the orchestra, sax-quartet and other chamber music, a bit of jazz and historical project (in which I can make use of my saxophone-collection)

SaxRules: After so many years performing concerts and teaching in masterclasses, could you tell us some funny stories which have happened to you?


300x300-Once we went to Cerdeña for a concert with the Aurelia quartet, I believe it was the town of Oristano. But when we arrived, the baritone saxophone didn’t arrive with the same plane: mix-up at the airport of Amsterdam. But we had the concert the same day. Then our manager started to call many people in order to borrow a baritone. Finally we found one from another town, not too far away. This instrument was owned by the local Banda: it was a quite obscure instrument, maybe not even a markname on it. Anyway: it was the only one available, so we had to use it. But: it didn’t really work well, so we had to repair it with elastics and stuff. But still: the tuning was horrible. Anyway: concert is concert, so we played. The concert happened to take place in a disco-bar. We changed the repertoire a bit: not the string-quartet by Ravel for instance, but some light pieces from our children-concert, that we happened to know from memory. Willem van Merwijk, our baritonist, did a great job that night and we concluded, that this repertory was finally much more adapted to this concert hall!

-Another time Aurelia Sax Quartet (we were quite in the beginning of our career, must have been in 1987) had 2 concerts on 1 day in Freiburg, Germany. It was very cold and a lot of snow was falling down. The afternoon-concert went fine, but then we had to travel a bit outside the center for the 2nd one in the night at 19h00. The taxi-driver brought us to the wrong church and then we had to walk with all our stuff through the snow to the right one, which was closed when we arrived, just before 18h00. Then we decide to look for a place to eat and finally found a pizzeria. They were a bit slow, so we ran out of time quite a bit and arrived at the church just before 19h00. The people were worriedly looking around, you can imagine. Well: we dressed up quickly (on the balcony of the church, which was full of people already) and then we started to play on ice-cold saxophones. They warmed up during the concert and it became one of our best concerts ever: the public became outraged and didn’t stop asking for encores.

-Last April I went to the US to do a masterclass at Bloomington (Indiana university), where Otis Murphy is teaching. He is very good friend of mine: he and his wife Haruko have a lovely famliy with 6 kids.  Actually I went on this trip without purchasing the right type of visa for (shhhht: it’s a secret) and hoped to get through the customs without problems. Well: I arrived in the U.S. And when I was getting at the customs-box-office, the officer asked me for the purpose of my travel. I said: “I ‘m going to visit my friend Otis Murphy in Bloomington”. Then he replied: “but I see, that you are staying in a hotel. Why you don’t stay at his place, if he is such a good friend?” I replied: “well, you know, he has 6 kids…..”. Then the officer said: “Aha, I understand! You are all set”. And I could continue my way.

SaxRules: Could you name 5 saxophone players who have influenced you as a musician?

Arno: Daniel Deffayet, Jean-Marie Londeix, Dexter Gordon, Nobuya Sugawa and Ed Bogaard (my teacher in Amsterdam)

SaxRules: Describe your set up. (Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Baritone)


  •  Soprano: Selmer Mark VI silverplated (1978),  Selmer old soloist c*, Légère Signature 3,5
  •   Alto: Buffet Crampon Prestige, Red Copper (1988), Selmer  new soloist C**,  Légère  Signature 3,5
  •   Tenor: Selmer Mark VII (1978), Selmer C*, Légère Signature 3,5
  •   Baritone: Selmer Mark VI (1978), Selmer C**, Légère Signature 3 1/4

SaxRules: Could you tell us about your next projects?

Arno: After having finished SAX16 last Saturday, I travelled to Tokyo. I will do a ‘super-masterclass’ of more than 2 weeks at the Geidai University of Fine Arts: this is the school where Nobuya Sugawa is teaching. I will take over for these 2 weeks.

-Next to the regular teaching and masterclasses I plan to do a recording of my Bach-project in June 2017. That’s a big thing: I play these pieces (2nd Cello-suite, Flute-partita and the 2nd Violin-partita) already quite a long time, but didn’t feel ready to record. But now I am ready: I feel strong in my conception of this magical music and technically I overcome most of the difficulties.

13260269_603526009803922_6017029399949891052_n-I want to organize a concert- and recording-tour for Nobuya- and Minako Sugawa, next end of november, beginning of december 2017. We have a very nice trio-program. Nobuya should be heard in Europe more often: he is an outstanding musician.

-Furthermore I have asked my friend Guillermo Lago (alias Willem van Merwijk) to write a saxophone concerto for me, which I hopefully will premiere in 2018 at the Zagreb WSC.

SaxRules: Dream and make a wish for you as a professional.

13220718_10154292862862216_4602544486672968193_o-1Arno: I dream of staying in good shape, making it possible for me to find new music and new arrangements to play  and to record (I really LOVE to explore the baritone lately), revitalizing my Aurelia Saxophone Quartet (which is a treat to play in) and focusing again on the standard-repertoire: I believe, that the ‘classical saxophone-world’ is floating away from it a bit and I find that a pity: why should we loose good traditions? And I like to share my way of dealing with the tradition in a musical world, which is radically changing

SaxRules: Thank you very much Arno!

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