Tour with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra
At the suggestion of former President of the Bundestag Norbert Lammert, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and Steven Sloane planned a concert tour from 21 – 27 June 2021 to Berlin and Bochum as an important contribution to the German-Jewish festival year 1700 years of Jewish life in Germany. As one of the principal Israeli orchestras, the JSO made its guest appearance in Germany for the first time in over a decade.
Tours with the Bochum Symphony Orchestra
Under the baton of Steven Sloane, the Bochum Symphony Orchestra made a name for itself internationally with concert tours to Israel, Estonia, USA and Austria, including the Mahler Festival in Tirol. It has also held regular performances in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. Through the the internationally acclaimed and celebrated production of Zimmermann’s “Die Soldaten”, which the Bochum Symphony Orchestra performed as part of the international cultural festival RuhrTriennale, the orchestra travelled with this spectacular opera production to New York at the invitation of the renowned Lincoln Center Festival in the summer of 2008, where it was well received by media and audience alike.
György Ligeti’s Requiem (1965) is a work filled with anger and grief. Kornél Mundruczó places the theme of repetition at the centre of his analysis. We experience the work in three periods and three forms: an encounter with horror takes place in the past, a traumatized silence occupies the present while in the future we sense a world in which artificial intelligence – apparently innocently – no longer leaves any scope for the notion of memory or commemoration. Steven Sloane conducts the Bochumer Symphoniker and the Staatschor Latvija. A production by Ruhrtriennale in cooperation with Proton Theatre Budapest.
Day of Song
One of many initiatives of the European Capital of Culture RUHR 2010, !SING-Day of Song aimed to re-establish the experience of community singing in everyday German culture, something that had largely disappeared after the Second World War.
At 12:10 p.m. on the 5th of June 2010, a nationwide radio signal invited everyone, regardless of where they happened to be, to join in singing Glück auf, a traditional German miners’ song and Komm zur Ruhr, a new song by the pop star, actor and Bochum native Herbert Grönemeyer. Over a million people – at work, in the marketplace, in churches and at home – sang these songs simultaneously.
In another manifestation of !SING – Day of Song, 25,000 singers from over 750 choirs and vocal ensembles performed in 600 events in 49 cities in the Ruhr region over a period of four days.
At the culmination of the 2010 European Capital of Culture festivities, Steven Sloane led the Bochum Symphony Orchestra, 65,000 singers drawn from the entire region and guests Bobby McFerrin, Vesselina Kasarova and The Wise Guys in a wide-ranging program from folk songs to the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Veltins Football Stadium in Gelsenkirchen.
In 27 years as Artistic Director of the European Capital of Culture, Steven Sloane honored the visionary German composer Hans Werner Henze by coordinating a year-long series of performances of his entire oeuvre: opera, ballet, orchestral music and chamber works, presented by 40 different partnering groups in venues throughout the region. Allied to the performances were film retrospectives, a symposium and a composition competition that explored and celebrated Henze’s many achievements and influence.
The European Capital of Culture RUHR 2010 and the Semperoper in Dresden commissioned Henze to write a new opera. Gisela or The Strange and Memorable Ways of Good Fortune for an ensemble comprising children, young artists, amateurs and professional musicians, which was premiered in the Machine Hall (Zeche Zweckel) in Gladbeck in September 2010 as part of the Ruhrtriennale music and arts festival, directed by Pierre Audi and conducted by Steven Sloane. Gisela turned out to be Henze’s last opera. He died in October 2012 at the age of 85.
2010 was the centenary of the premiere of Gustav Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, his so-called ‘Symphony of a Thousand’ because of the large vocal and orchestral forces required for its performance. To commemorate the anniversary, Steven Sloane, Artistic Director of the European Capital of Culture RUHR 2010, organized and prepared a ‘reconstruction’ of the first performance, bringing together six symphony orchestras and 25 choruses from the Ruhr Valley, a total of 1400 participants. The conductor on the night of 12 September 2010 was Lorin Maazel, who led “a polished, fiery and soulful rendition” (The Wall Street Journal) of the work at the engine house of the former ironworks that is today’s Landschaftspark Nord. Germany’s President, Christian Wolff, was among the 2,600 audience members.
During his tenure as Music Director of the American Composers Orchestra (2002-2006), Steven Sloane curated a weeklong festival of concerts, master classes, workshops, symposia and educational activities exploring the place of improvisation in ensemble and orchestral music, from jazz to the avant-garde.
In the classical music world, musicians traditionally recreate works that exist as notes on paper but the idea of Improvise! was to bring the musician’s own world experience into the artistic process.
Improvise! was a collaboration with Carnegie Hall and with the American Music Center, Columbia University Center for Jazz Studies, Joe’s Pub at The Public Theatre, The Juilliard School, The Duke Ellington Society, and The Manhattan School of Music Jazz Department.
Among the concepts explored in performances, presentations and educational activities were:
- Where does traditional “composition” end and “improvisation” begin? How do the two disciplines relate to one other?
- Is improvisation an abdication of the composer’s responsibilities or the basis for positive collaboration?
- What impact has the rise of jazz had on orchestral music?
- How are the relationships between conductor, players, and composer affected by improvised music?
- Are improvisation skills adequately addressed in music training? If not, what can be improved?
At the conclusion of Improvise!, Steven Sloane conducted a concert at Carnegie Hall featuring works by Anthony Davis, George Lewis, Earle Brown and Duke Ellington.
Youth Orchestras and Choir Projects
Mentoring young musicians has been very important to Steven Sloane from early on in his career. It is a role that he continues to embrace today.
He lived in Israel in the 1980s. Only in his 20s himself at the time, he founded a number of youth choirs and orchestras that are still going strong today. In 1982-83, he founded a children’s choir at the Tel Aviv Conservatory and also a youth orchestra and choir for slightly older students, which he led for eight years. This orchestra and choir and the one he founded at the Telma Yellin High School in 1983, also in Tel Aviv, spawned the careers of many future singers, conductors, accompanists, opera coaches, music directors, and music managers currently working around the world.
Steven Sloane regularly conducts youth orchestras such as the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie, the Bundesjugendorchester) the Tel Aviv Conservatory Orchestra, the Young Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the University of Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.
He brought together the Studio musikFabrik Youth Ensemble of Landesmusikrats NRW, the Youth Chamber Choir of the Chorakademie Dortmund and students of Folkwang University Essen for a production of Hans Werner Henze’s opera Gisela! staged by Pierre Audi as part of the 2010 Ruhrtriennale. In 2008, he led the Orchestra of the University of Music Karslruhe in Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphonie; in 2016, he brought together the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and the Junge Philharmonie Zentralschweiz (the orchestra of Lucerne University) for a program that included Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra. In 2015, he led the youth orchestra of the Universität der Kunst, Berlin in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 in a sold-out performance at Berlin’s Philharmonie.
Steven Sloane has given conducting master classes at the Aspen (Colorado) Music Festival and in Israel and has been a jury member at the Besançon and Leeds conducting competitions.
He also fosters the training of young conductors through the International Conducting Academy Berlin at Berlin’s University of the Arts, where he is Professor of Conducting.
© Photos: Marcus Witte (Slider) & Christoph Fein (Improvise!)