Throughout his career, Steven Sloane has conducted a great deal of the symphonic repertoire from Haydn to composers from our day and age. However, in contrast to many of his colleagues he did not work through the catalogues of the grand masters of Classical music in an encyclopaedic manner. In searching for both the obvious and the latent interconnections in music history, Sloane has instead combined old and established works with new or overlooked possibilities of musical expression. He has avoided specialism and exclusivity of any kind, in particular the German idea of “Absolute Musik”, i.e. music which only refers to music and nothing but music, is alien to him.

He is far more interested in the big issues independent of time and fashion which mankind faces in all cultures and in the fascinating diversity in which the different musical genres respond to them – far beyond so-called classical music.

Taboos ignite his fantasy, hence he loves to confront the classics with all kinds of contemporary musical expressions, including jazz, pop, film music and other art forms.

It goes without saying that this approach requires continuity of a different kind, more than just an unspecific sequence of nice program ideas. Steven Sloane and the Bochum Symphony Orchestra are a perfect match in this respect and their more than 20 years of intensive collaboration is an outstanding testimony to the strength of their partnership and very rare in our day and age.

In recent years Mahler’s music became more and more a focal point in Sloane’s conducting career. In an initial cycle he combined Mahler and Ives in his programs, underpinning both a surprising congeniality and the utmost contrast and diversity of their musical output, in short:

the extremes of musical modernity and the underlying current which unites these composers as kindred spirits. In his upcoming second cycle Sloane will head in the opposite direction, not only trying to find different responses in terms of repertoire but also different formats of presentation for each of Mahler’s symphonies and song cycles. For Sloane, Mahler remains the ultimate role model in resisting routine and meaningless convention.

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Since his appointment in 1994 as General Music Director of the City of Bochum, Steven Sloane has succeeded in raising the local, regional and international profile of the Bochum Symphony Orchestra, built up a devoted audience in and around the post-industrial Ruhr city of 365,000, toured with the Orchestra through Europe and to the United States and spearheaded the drive to build the Orchestra’s first-ever concert hall home.

In response to a mixture of traditional programs with contemporary forms and interesting themed programs, Bochum Symphony Orchestra audiences increased dramatically and subscriptions rose by over 400% in Sloane’s first three seasons. Multiple themed projects are presented each season, linked to activities at the city’s schools and cultural institutions. The German Association of Music Editors gave the Bochum Symphony Orchestra under Steven Sloane their annual award for Best Concert Program in 1996/1997 and again in 2004/2005.

The Bochum Symphony Orchestra has been at the heart of two Ruhr regional celebrations of the arts: the Ruhrtriennale, an arts festival held in industrial venues in the Ruhr area and characterized by world premieres; and the European Capital of Culture which, in 2010, was assigned to the Ruhr region.

Steven Sloane and the Bochum Symphony Orchestra have performed throughout Germany and Europe, Israel and the United States. Increasingly recognized for their Mahler interpretations, the Orchestra have been invited to perform at many festivals including the Gustav Mahler Musikwochen Toblach.

Versatile in repertoire and musical styles, they have also made a tour of Germany and Switzerland with Sting, including a date at the Montreux Jazz Festival.

A milestone in the history of the Orchestra, their performances of Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s opera Die Soldaten in 2006 as part of the Ruhrtriennale attracted national and international critical praise. The production was repeated the following year and opened the 2008 Lincoln Center Festival in New York City. Alex Ross of The New Yorker chose it as one of the “10 Best Performances of 2008”.

Throughout 2010, Steven Sloane and the Bochum Symphony Orchestra honored the composer Hans Werner Henze with a year-long series of performances of his orchestral works and a recording of his Requiem for the Cybele label. They also gave the world premiere of a new opera, Gisela or The Strange and Memorable Ways of Good Fortune, commissioned by the European Capital of Culture RUHR 2010 and the Semperoper in Dresden. Gisela proved to be Henze’s last work.

In addition to Hans Werner Henze’s Requiem, the Bochum Symphony Orchestra’s discography with Steven Sloane includes recordings of Orchestral songs by Gustav Mahler and Wolfgang Rihm with Christoph Pregardien, George Antheil’s opera The Brothers, French Cello Concertos with Niklas Eppinger and a four-disc traversal of the complete orchestral works of Joseph Marx, one of which was nominated for a Grammy award.

The DVD of their Ruhrtriennale production of Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten directed by David Poutney was on the list of the best DVDs of the German Record Critics list in 2007. The next recording project of the Bochum Symphony Orchestra and Steven Sloane will be Franz Schreker’s complete orchestral works.

The Bochum Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1919. Since its inception, it has been a travelling orchestra without a home concert hall, performing in recent years in as many as 14 different locations in and around Bochum, including the theater (Schauspielhaus Bochum) and the Audimax, a lecture hall at the Ruhr University Bochum, neither of which has acoustics suited to music performance.

Following years of networking, fundraising and negotiations, Steven Sloane and the Bochum Symphony Orchestra succeeded in setting in motion the building of a permanent home for the Orchestra, where they can both rehearse and perform. The Anneliese Brost Musikforum Ruhr, currently in the final stages of construction in the city center, will be inaugurated in October 2016.


Hans Werner Henze by Ursula Kaufmann
Steven and Hans Werner Henze (© Ursula Kaufmann)