Icebreaker was founded by James Poke and John Godfrey in 1989 to play at the new Dutch music festival in York, is a 12-piece group consisting of panpipes, saxes, electric violin and cello, guitars, percussion and keyboards. Icebreaker have established themselves as one of the UK's leading contemporary music interpreters.
As a group of musicians that always plays amplified, it boasts an exciting repertoire which encompasses some of the best known and most influential names in contemporary music today. Icebreaker is not easy to categorise or pigeonhole in any musical sense. They create a music that appeals to contemporary classical, rock and alternative music audiences alike. Given their unusual instrumental combination, Icebreaker represent a unique voice in British music making.
Icebreaker's concert appearances span the whole of the UK and Europe as well as performances in the USA. The ensemble has been invited to appear at most major contemporary music festivals and venues including Meltdown, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the Aarhus, Gent and Budapest festivals and the NYYD Festival in Estonia. The year 2001 sees their fourth visit to the Bang on a Can festival in New York. In 1995, they were a resident ensemble at the Dartington International Summer School for the advanced composition course led by Louis Andriessen.
Icebreaker has recorded for Argo/Decca. Their first complete recording, Terminal Velocity, was released to great critical acclaim in 1994. The second album, Trance by Michael Gordon was released in 1996. Contributions to compilation albums include works by Graham Fitkin (Argo), and Steve Martland and John Godfrey (Century XXI A - M / NewTone). Rogue's Gallery (NewTone), contains works by Michael Torke, David Lang, Godfrey, Martland and Andriessen. Their most recent recordings are Diderik Wagenaar (Composers' Voice) and Extraction (between the lines), both due for release in autumn 2001 Tanzwerk Nürnberg, the West Australian Ballet and the Pacific Northwest Ballet of Seattle have used Icebreaker's recordings for performances.
In June 1998, Icebreaker appeared as guest performers with The Royal Ballet for a new ballet by Ashley Page called Cheating, Lying, Stealing as part of the centenary celebrations for Dame Ninette de Valois' 100th birthday. Recent performances include a dedicated Icebreaker festival with the Wiener Musik Galerie in Vienna, a tour of Holland and further concert performances in Belgium, Poland, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the UK.
Future plans include appearances with the American Composers and Bochum Symphony Orchestras in a Concerto for Icebreaker and Orchestra by American Composer Stewart Wallace, a collaboration with Dutch Orkest de Volharding, a tour of Germany and further performances in Belgium, Holland, Austria and the UK.
Steven Sloane is one of the most adventurous and innovative conductors to have emerged in recent years. Through his work with orchestras, festivals, choruses, and opera companies across Europe and in America, Mr. Sloane has won acclaim for his compelling programming, theatrical flair, and impressive technique. His passion for unusual repertoire, interest in eclectic juxtapositions of music of divergent eras and styles, commitment to contemporary works, and willingness to challenge convention have established Mr. Sloane as a bold champion of the future of concert music. In November 2000, Mr. Sloane was named Music Director Designate of American Composers Orchestra, succeeding Dennis Russell Davies, who co-founded the orchestra in 1977.
Mr. Sloane is currently Music Director of Opera North (UK), and General Music Director of the City of Bochum Symphony (Germany), as well as Principal Conductor of the English Northern Philharmonia. For the last three years he was also Music Director of the Opera and Orchestra at the Spoleto Festival (USA).
Mr. Sloane's recent performances include the American premiere of Heiner Goebbels's Surrogate Cities at Spoleto. That work, by one of Germany's most provocative composers, is scored for amplified orchestra, voice, percussion, and computer sampler. Mr. Sloane presented Surrogate Cities in a suitably dramatic setting-an abandoned theater-in a performance that The New York Times called "a knockout&ldots; it turned the symphony orchestra on its head." With the Bochum Symphony, Mr. Sloane has offered such eclectic programming as Monteverdi Meets Maderna, Jean Cocteau and his Paris, Trans-Atlantik (exploring connections between Germany and America), and Assimilation: Jewish Identity in Music, earning the prestigious German Publishers Award for Best Programming of the Year. This season while on tour with the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie, Mr. Sloane conducted George Crumb's landmark music/performance-art piece Echoes of Time and the River. Among the many contemporary composers whose works he has performed recently are American composers Michael Daugherty, Joan Tower, Steve Reich, John Adams, Tan Dun, Christopher Rouse, John Corigliano and Stewart Wallace. He has also championed many of America's early New England School composers, including George Whitefield Chadwick, John Knowles Paine, and Edward MacDowell, as well as leading European composers of today such as Luciano Berio, Mauricio Kagel, and Wolfgang Rihm. He has commissioned more than twenty Israeli composers, including Gil Shohat, Noam Sheriff, Sergiu Natra, and Tzvi Avni.
Born in Los Angeles in 1958, Mr. Sloane studied viola, musicology, and conducting at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA). He continued his conducting studies with Eugene Ormandy, Franco Ferrara and Gary Bertini. After settling in Israel in 1981, Mr. Sloane conducted all the leading Israeli orchestras, including the Israel Philharmonic, Jerusalem Symphony, Israel Chamber Orchestra, Haifa Symphony and the Israel Sinfonietta. He was also Orchestral and Choral Director of the Israel Conservatory of Music and Music Director of both the Tel Aviv Philharmonic Choir and the Tel Aviv Vocal Festival.
In 1988, Mr. Sloane was offered the position of Principal Resident Conductor of the Frankfurt Opera, a position he held until 1992. From 1992 to 1994 he served as Music Director of the Long Beach Opera. He has been a regular guest conductor both with the New York City Opera, where he conducted a "Live From Lincoln Center" national television broadcast of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci, and with the New Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv. Recent operatic engagements have included debuts at the Seattle Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Bonn, Welsh National Opera, Lausanne, and Stuttgart Opera. He has also led productions at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and opened the Hong Kong Festival. His recent operatic repertoire includes Weill's Mahagonny, Britten's The Rape of Lucretia, Strauss' Salome, Berg's Wozzeck, and Janácek's Jenufa and Katja Kabánova. Next season he will make his debut with the Houston Grand Opera in a production of Janacek's The Makropulos Case.
Steven Sloane's recent orchestral engagements include the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra, the symphony orchestras of Utah, New Mexico and Edmonton, the orchestra of the Komische Oper Berlin, the Cologne and the Bavarian Radio Orchestras, the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestre National de Lyon, the Prague Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Teatro San Carlo (Naples), the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, and the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. Next season, he makes his debut with the San Francisco Symphony.