STAVANGER: The new concert hall opened to audience acclaim amongst a flurry of champagne. ‘The musicians can now breathe every day like a healthy body,’ current chief Stavanger Symphony Orchestra conductor Steven Sloane tells The Foreigner in an interview.
Cocooned from the Stavanger weather, seats in the stalls felt very much like sitting in a cinema at the middle of a luxury cruise ship. Each new cloth-covered Scandinavian-style chair in light-coloured wood had an individual fan underneath to cater to the spectator’s body temperature. The acoustics were top-notch; the lighting and space oozed professionalism and grandeur.
We – press, public, politicians and HRH Crown Prince Haakon – were on a voyage into the unknown. Both orchestra and audience had left the dowdy musical quayside with its old, domed, acoustic battle of an arena in a luxury vessel even Silver Sea or Seabourn Cruise companies would have been proud of.
“It’s one of the leading concert halls in Europe; it was a privilege to be in,” conductor Steven Sloane says when The Foreigner asked him to place it in a European perspective. “I’m in awe of what has been done.”
“The aural and visual acoustics are a winning combination. As with any great masterpiece that unfolds, it defies criticism and personal taste.”
What was it like to be on stage conducting?
“I really got a strong sense of the audience. It was like a breath of fresh air for a musician.”
Stephen Sloane pre-rehearsal
Stavanger Symphony OrchestraAbout the other advantages, he declares, “the orchestra needs this hall to define itself as a collective, which was one of the difficulties with it in previous years [in the old concert hall]. It played well, but couldn’t develop.”
“We were working against the old venue, but the new hall is working with you, responding, reactive. You can play and let I happen.”
Norway’s Crown Prince also happened on Saturday. Stavanger Mayor Christine Sagen Helgø’s speech, Minister of Culture Anniken Huitfeldt’s “it’s a concert hall for all, even those who were against building it” and promise of an extra seven million kroner to SSO in next year’s budget fell silent in comparison.
With a smile, HRH moved gracefully from stage left to centre, stealing the show when asking, “did you see that, how I used the space?”
Why have you chosen not to renew your contract?
Steven Sloane replies, “The orchestra has a wonderful history, but I think there’s comes a time when a good orchestra needs new impulses. I’m very proud of the relationship with the orchestra and love it dearly, but I will be doing other things over the next years; a lot more opera, it’s one of my passions.”
Taking a final telephonic bow, he concludes, “The administration, orchestra, and everyone involved in the concert hall now have a challenge ahead of them to make this incredible infrastructure reach out and show what it has to offer people on a local and international perspective.”