Classical saxophonist Arno Bornkamp is a unique figure both as a saxophonist and as a classical musician. During his career, now spanning 40 years, he has amazed the music world with his energetic, lyric, passionate, and stylish interpretations. He believes the saxophone is an instrument infinite in nuance and colors, reflecting the human soul with all its shadings of light and dark.
Arno Bornkamp is a natural storyteller on his instrument who offers a highly personal take in his interpretations of all the music he plays. Arno Bornkamp’s saxophone style is firmly rooted in the 20th-century French tradition. In addition to Ed Bogaard, his primary teachers were the French saxophone legends Daniel Deffayet and Jean-Marie Londeix. Nonetheless, he was primarily influenced by the Dutch musical climate of the 1980s, a time when traditions were overthrown, dogmas were broken, and classical music reached vast audiences.
Arno Bornkamp flourished greatly in this cultural climate, and together with Johan van der Linden, André Arends, and Willem van Merwijk, he founded the Aurelia Saxophone Quartet (1982–2017). For many years, this was one of the world’s greatest quartets of its kind and opened the doors to make string quartet literature (such as the quartets by Debussy and Ravel, which the musicians usually performed without sheet music) accessible to the saxophone quartet. The Aurelia Quartet, later with Niels Bijl, Femke IJlstra, and Juan Manuel Dominguez, has left a true legacy that is still a source of inspiration for young quartets.
Also noteworthy is Arno Bornkamp’s long collaboration with pianist Ivo Janssen. Janssen, a gifted soloist, was the perfect musical partner for Bornkamp. Their interpretations of original repertoire and arrangements, many of which have been released on CD, are still considered exemplary. More recently, Arno Bornkamp has started working with younger musicians: the Trio Abril with fellow saxophonist Juani Palop and pianist Frank van der Laar, the Duo Calvadoré with the Flemish pianist Jan Lust, and the Pannonica Saxophone Quartet, which specializes in Argentine Tango.
His infectious style of musical performance makes Arno Bornkamp an ideal soloist. He has given more than 200 performances as a soloist with orchestra and has worked together with conductors such as Hans Vonk, Jac van Steen, Lucas Vis, Thierry Fischer, Bernhard Klee, Jean-Bernard Pommier, Andrey Boreyko and Pierre-André Valade. His repertoire spans from the standard repertoire for the saxophone to new, often-commissioned concertos. The Tallahatchie Concerto by Jacob ter Veldhuis ranks highly in the latter category, with Bornkamp giving many performances worldwide.
For approximately 25 years, orchestras such as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Residentie Orkest, Holland Symfonia, and various radio orchestras have used Bornkamp’s services as a guest performer, giving him the privilege of playing orchestral repertoire under such greats as Carlo Maria Giulini, Riccardo Chailly, Mariss Jansons, Daniele Gatti, Mstislav Rostropovich, Heinz Holliger and Bernard Haitink.
Arno Bornkamp loves the tradition of the saxophone. He has built up a small collection of historical instruments, enabling him to perform older repertoire in a historically informed manner in both solo projects and with the Flemish orchestra Anima Eterna. However, he has a particular fondness for new music: The saxophone player has collaborated on more than 150 premieres as a soloist and chamber musician.
Initially inspired by leading composers such as Luciano Berio and Karlheinz Stockhausen, he later built deep, long-term, and productive musical relationships with composers such as Ryo Noda, Christian Lauba, Guillermo Lago, Santiago Baez, and Jacob ter Veldhuis, frequently performing many of their works.
In his most recent project Little Big Horn (premiere December 2020), Arno Bornkamp puts the baritone saxophone in the spotlight: Surrounded by a theatrical concept by André Arends, Bornkamp presents eight brand-new solo pieces by various composers from the fields of classical music and jazz, including a work by Branford Marsalis. Little Big Horn is the direct forerunner to the CD Folies de Baryton, as the majority of the compositions are recorded here.
Arno Bornkamp finds it essential to pass on his knowledge to new generations of musicians. He teaches at the Conservatory of Amsterdam, where many of his students put his ideas into practice. He is also regularly invited to give masterclasses all over the world.
Arno Bornkamp has released dozens of CDs as a soloist, with the Aurelia Quartet and in the context of other projects. His latest CD project Dance – Bach by Bornkamp is a solo album with transcriptions of music by Johann Sebastian Bach, which was released by GENUIN classics in February 2020.
Photography: Sarah Wijzenbeek
The artist's homepage:
CDs released by GENUIN
with Arno Bornkamp