!SING – 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.
Throughout 2010, 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.
The Bochum Symphony Orchestra recorded Henze’s Requiem in 2010 for the Cybele label:
“The members of the Bochum Symphony Orchestra expertly conducted by Steven Sloane are completely in tune with the Henze’s conception…. It’s a live performance, and one obviously thoroughly appreciated by the audience. The acoustic suits the interpretation. It also honours Steven Sloane’s determination to let every bar breathe, speak for itself and contribute to the overall impact. This is so large as to make you want to return to the start as soon as the applause dies away.” Music Web International
MAHLER – Symphony No. 8
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 ORCHESTRA 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 Conductors Academy Berlin at Berlin’s University of the Arts, where he is Professor of Conducting.
JEAN COCTEAU AND HIS PARIS
In Jean Cocteau and his Paris, Steven Sloane and the Bochum Symphony Orchestra explored the incredible period of musical creativity surrounding the magnetic and colorful figure of the 19th century French designer, artist, playwright, filmmaker and writer Jean Cocteau. The Orchestra performed works by composers influenced by Cocteau, including the members of Les Six and others connected to the Ballets Russes, such as Satie, Stravinsky and Prokofiev. They also recreated costumes that Cocteau had designed and gave a staged performance, directed by David Alden, of Stravinsky’s opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex, with a libretto by Jean Cocteau.
Jewish identity is sometimes very clear in the music of people with Jewish roots; sometimes it is not recognizable at all. Were Jewish composers strangers in their own countries or were they accepted members of the societies in which they lived? Were they persecuted or integrated? What is Jewish music in a pluralistic society? Steven Sloane and the Bochum Symphony Orchestra took the opportunity of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel to trace the development of Jewish music through the phenomenon of assimilation in a project consisting of 16 concerts in and around Bochum throughout the 1998/1999 concert season.
The project included a series of films, an exhibition, Tracing Jewish life in Bochum and concerts featuring music by Salamone Rossi, the first Jewish composer in the Baroque period to write polyphony for the synagogue, Klezmer music (by the Giora Feidman Ensemble), choral works by Leonard Bernstein, Arnold Schoenberg, and Felix Mendelssohn, the second symphony of Gustav Mahler (‘Resurrection’) and contemporary music by Noam Sheriff and Gil Shochat.
The project was realized under the patronage of Ignatz Bubis, President of the Central Council of Jews in the province of Nord-Rhein-Westfalen and Wolfgang Clement, Prime Minister of the province of Nord-Rhein-Westfalen.
“The question of whether there is something like Jewish identity in music is subjective and can only be answered by each concert-goer himself. The chosen pieces of music open up the possibility of making a journey through the history of Jewish composers and will provide a special experience for every interested listener.” Ignatz Bubis
“…bridges of communication, rebuilt over the last few decades, helped to overcome the speechlessness that came after the horror. And what could contribute better to the understanding amongst nations than music: the only language that does not need words and nevertheless can be understood by all people?” Wolfgang Clement
MAHLER MEETS IVES
The lives of Gustav Mahler and Charles Ives overlapped, each had a deep connection to his roots and the two became friends during the years when Mahler was Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. Both used off-stage bands and quoted popular hymns and songs in their compositions.
In collaboration with the Philharmonie in Essen, Steven Sloane and the Bochum Symphony Orchestra explored all the orchestral works of Mahler and some of the songs with orchestra (Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Des Knaben Wunderhorn, Rückert-Lieder, Kindertotenlieder) alongside music by the maverick American composer.
DIE WUNDE WAGNER (THE WAGNER WOUND)
Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the issue of whether the music of Richard Wagner should be performed in Israel has never been resolved. The real subject is the relationship of politics and art. Can music be anti-Semitic? Can the work of an overt anti-Semite from the 19th century be judged differently from the hindsight perspective of the Holocaust?
With The Wagner Wound or Richard Wagner and Israel – Semitism and Taboo, Steven Sloane and the Bochum Symphony Orchestra tackled these questions in a variety of formats, from large orchestral works to small song recitals. Alongside works by Wagner, there were performances of compositions by renowned Jewish contemporaries of the Bayreuth master as well as music by 20th century Jewish composers.
The climax of the project was a symposium, prepared and accompanied, in part, by the Bochum Schools. Among the participants was Richard Wagner’s great-grandson, Gottfried Wagner.