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About FSSO

Principal Guest Conductor

Gérard Korsten, the renowned South African born conductor who has been based in Europe as a conductor since 1996, was appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Free State Symphony Orchestra in June 2018. The Board of the FSSO extended an invitation to maestro Korsten to take up this position following his acclaimed appearances with the FSSO in May 2015 and October 2017. During his last visit he indicated his appreciation for the FSSO’s role and vision, as well as his interest in being involved with the FSSO and its music-educational programme over the next several years – in particular to help mentor a new generation of young orchestral musicians in the Free State and South Africa.

In terms of his appointment, maestro Korsten will visit the Free State Symphony Orchestra to conduct at least one symphony concert (or concert series) per year. Given his expressed willingness to help with the development of the orchestra and the mentoring of a new generation of orchestral players, complementary musical mentoring activities will be arranged as opportunities arise and as possible. These could include activities such as mentoring young orchestral musicians, assisting the string principals, presenting conducting master classes, mentoring young opera singers, and so forth.

The FSSO is honoured to have welcomed maestro Gérard Korsten as Principal Guest Conductor, to work with him annually and to absorb the benefit of his vast experience, energy and passion for music.

Gérard Korsten

Maestro Gerard Korsten

Commanding a wide repertoire in both the concert hall and opera house, conductor Gérard Korsten enjoys particular renown in Mozart and other composers of the Classical era, and as an interpreter of both well-known and rarer works from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Principal Conductor of Austria’s Symphonieorchester Vorarlberg Bregenz since 2005, Gérard Korsten is also in demand as a guest conductor for appearances with theatres and orchestras in Europe, Asia, Australia and South Africa. He has served as Principal Conductor of the London Mozart Players, the South African State Theatre in Pretoria and the Uppsala Chamber Orchestra in Sweden, and from 1999 to 2005 was Music Director of the Orchestra del Teatro Lirico di Cagliari in Sardinia, where he returned in 2016 to conduct La Traviata.

Born in Pretoria, Gérard Korsten began his career as an orchestral violinist. After studies with Ivan Galamian at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia he went to Salzburg, where he trained with Sándor Végh, becoming concertmaster and then Assistant Music Director of Camerata Salzburg, of which Végh was Principal Conductor. In 1987 Korsten joined the Chamber Orchestra of Europe as its concertmaster; over his nine years with the ensemble he built close working relationships with such conductors as Claudio Abbado, Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Heinz Holliger.

Since 1996 he has dedicated his career to conducting, appearing regularly with such orchestras as the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Camerata Salzburg, Adelaide Symphony, BBC Scottish Symphony, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Gavle Symphony Orchestra, Helsingborg Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Irish Chamber Orchestra, Latvian National Symphony, Musikkollegium Winterthur, Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana, Orchestra Padova e Veneto, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, SWR Sinfonieorchester Freiburg and Yomiuri Nippon Orchestra.

In the 2016/17 season he makes his debut with the Pannon Philharmonic of Pécs and returns to the Gavle Symphony Orchestra, Györ Philharmonic Orchestra, Haydn Philharmonie, Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana, Orchestra del Teatro Lirico di Cagliari, Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto, as well as Scottish and Uppsala Chamber Orchestras.

His operatic appearances to date have included: Teatro alla Scala, Milan (Le nozze di Figaro); Opéra National de Lyon (Ariadne auf Naxos, Idomeneo, La traviata, Siegfried, La Veuve joyeuse and Henze’s L’Upupa); Bregenz Festival (Simon Laks’ L’Hirondelle inattendue, Die Zauberflöte, Le Rossignol, Der Schauspieldirektor); Deutsche Oper Berlin (La traviata); English National Opera (Aida); Glyndebourne Festival (Così fan tutte, Albert Herring); Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (Così fan tutte); Teatro Lirico Verdi Trieste (Don Pasquale and La Fille du régiment); Teatro Regio di Parma (La sonnambula); Netherlands Opera (Così fan tutte); Vlaamse Opera (Idomeneo); New National Theatre, Tokyo (Tosca); Royal Opera Stockholm (Don Giovanni); Hungarian State Opera (Don Pasquale) and Cape Town Opera (Le nozze di Figaro, Die Zauberflöte, Die Fledermaus, Ariadne auf Naxos, Rigoletto, Turandot, Salome, Peter Grimes).

Over his time as Music Director in Cagliari, he conducted the Italian premieres of Richard Strauss’ Die ägyptische Helena, Weber’s Euryanthe, Delius’ A Village Romeo and Juliet and Schubert’s Alfonso und Estrella, while also taking charge of such essential repertoire as Don Giovanni, Die Zauberflöte, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Don Pasquale, Lucia di Lammermoor, Aida, Tosca, Carmen and Die Fledermaus.

Gérald Korsten’s Arthaus DVD of Le nozze di Figaro, recorded at La Scala with a cast led by Diana Damrau and Ildebrando d’Arcangelo, was awarded a Diapason D’Or in France and designated Critic’s Choice by US magazine Opera News. His other recordings include Tchaikovsky’s Serenade and Souvenir de Florence with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe (Deutsche Grammophon), orchestral works by Crusell, Lindblad and Eggert (Naxos), La Veuve joyeuse (DVD, Erato) and a number of live recordings with the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari: Die ägyptische Helena, Euryanthe and Lucia di Lammermoor on CD (Dynamic) and, on DVD, Alfonso und Estrella (Dynamic) and Don Pasquale (Arthaus).

Gérard Korsten has two daughters and lives in both Zurich and Arezzo (Tuscany) with his wife, Italian soprano Eva Mei.

Principal viola

Jeanne-Louise Moolman

Jeanne-Louise Moolman 01
Jeanne-Louise Moolman
was appointed in 2008 as principal violist of the FSSO and viola player of the Odeion String Quartet at the University of the Free State. Jeanne-Louise was a founding member of the Rosamunde String Quartet. In 1990 she took part in the first live TV broadcast of serious music in South Africa during the SABC Chamber Music Festival at Mount Grace. Since then she established herself as one of the most sought after viola players in the country. She has performed in different other chamber music combinations with people such as violinists Gerard Korsten and Philippe Graffin, pianists Lamar Crowson and Albie van Schalkwyk, and clarinettist Robert Pickup.


Principal second violin

Sharon de Kock Sharon 01

Sharon De Kock is tthe principal second violinist of the FSSO and has been a member of the Odeion String Quartet and lecturer in violin at the UFS since 2008. After studying with Jürgen Schwietering and Gina Beukes (both Julliard alumni), she left South Africa to study in the USA at the age of 17. She is a B.Mus (magna cum laude) and M.Mus graduate of the University of Cincinnati, where she received many awards and prizes. She studied under the well-known concert violinist Chee-Yun Kim, Kurt Sassmannshaus and Piotr Milewski, all also Juilliard alumni.


Principal cellist

Anmari van der Westhuizen

Anmari 4
Anmari van der Westhuizen
, cellist, was appointed in the quartet and as a senior lecturer in cello at the UFS, in 2008. She is one of the most sought-after cellists in South Africa, both as soloist and chamber musician. After graduating cum laude at Stellenbosch University, she studied at the Mozarteum in Salzburg under Heidi Litschauer and was awarded the Grosses Konzertdiplom with distinction. At the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne, working under Maria Kliegel, she received the Konzertexamendiplom.


Concert master

Samson Diamond


Samson Diamond was appointed in 2013 as leader of the Odeion String Quartet and concertmaster of the FSSO. He was principal second violin of the JPO and he is founder member of the jazz-classical band Quattro Fusion, and former leader of the Diamond Quartet.

He graduated from the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, UK, where he obtained both Bachelor of Music Honours Degree First Class (2006) and his Master of Music Performance (2007) degree with distinction.


Principal trombone

Hendri Liebenberg - Principal trombone

Hendri Liebenberg web
Hendri Liebenberg completed his undergraduate music studies at the UFS in 2001, majoring in Trombone performance, Composition and Jazz Improvisation & Arranging. While working as lower brass teacher at the Free State Musicon, he obtained the Post Graduate Certificate in Education at the UFS, and did a year long course in orchestral conducting under the late Christopher Dowdeswell.


Principal trumpet

Paul van Zuilenburg - Principal trumpet

Paul Loeb van Zuilenburg studied at Stellenbosch, UNISA and the Rotterdam Conservatoire and holds a BAMus, BMus (hons), MMus, DMus, UM, LRSM, UVLM and MBA. While studying with Theo Mertens in Holland he also had the opportunity to attend and play at master classes presented by Adolph Herseth, Maurice Andre, Timofei Dokshitzer, Edward Tarr and Peter Maceuse. He competed nationally and internationally and was awarded first prizes in amongst other the ATKV Forte, Oude Meester, Bottineau, Twents Conservatorium Prijs and Mable Quick and was awarded special scholarships by the SABC, NZAV, Van Ewijk Stichting and the CSIR.


Principal clarinet

Danré Strydom

Principal clarinet

Danré Strydom was recently appointed as principal clarinet player of the FSSO. Danre web


Principal bass

Peter Guy

Peter Guy web

Peter Guy has been the principal double-bass player of the FSSO (previously the Pacofs orchestra) for more than twenty years. Peter has twice been nominated for Bloemfonteiner of the Year, received the Music Achiever of the Year in Johannesburg, a Centenary Medal from the University of the Free State, Awards from the Premier of the Free State and most recently the Friend of Heidedal Award. All recognition has been due to the success of the Mangaung String Programme.


Who are we

The Free State Symphony Orchestra is the only professional ad hoc orchestra based in Bloemfontein. The professional core of the orchestra consists of music teachers and free lance musicians. This is supplemented by some of the best young instrumentalists in the province.
The FSSO performs symphony concerts, accompany choirs, ballet and opera productions and do outreach concerts.

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