Biography

As the trombone began to sing... And the trombone certainly did sing, due to the tremendous artistry of the soloist Mike Svoboda (playing from memory!), whose heavenly smooth tone combined with an unsurpassed dynamic and timbral flexibility was amazing. (Schwetzinger Zeitung)

In his triple role as trombonist, composer and educator, Mike Svoboda is among the most original musical personalities of our time. His work is always targeted towards connecting with listeners and bridging the gap between stage and audience, without betraying the music with gimmicky compromises. He is consistently expanding his instrument’s repertoire and has premiered over 400 works to date. These include numerous trombone concertos, which he performed with orchestras including the WDR Symphony Orchestra, Bochumer Symphoniker, SWR Symphony Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Bruckner Orchester Linz and the Sinfonieorchester Basel under conductors such as Stefan Asbury, Peter Rundel, Jonathan Nott, Ilan Volkov and Dennis Russel Davies.

The list of composers with whom Mike Svoboda has worked over the last thirty years gives some idea of the diversity of works that he has premiered: it includes, among others, Sandeep Bagwahti, Sidney Corbett, Christian Jost, Georg Friedrich Haas, Manuel Hidalgo, Heinz Holliger, Benedict Mason, Wolfram Schürig, Martin Smolka, Mattias Spahlinger, Bernd Thewes and Frank Zappa. He most recently gave the world premieres of Wolfgang Rihm’s Canzona per sonare for alto trombone and two orchestra groups, Voyage III by Toshio Hosokawa, the music theatre work As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams by Peter Eötvös and NUN for flute, trombone and orchestra by Helmut Lachenmann. He has also given the German premieres of Michael Nyman’s trombone concerto and that of Iannis Xenakis, Troorkh.

This season, Mike Svoboda will appear at Milano Musica with Pascal Dusapin’s trombone concerto WATT, and will make his debut at the Elbphilharmonie as part of the Hamburg Musikfest with Yeree Suh and the Ensemble Resonanz under Peter Rundel, performing a work for soprano, trombone and ensemble by Beat Furrer. His children’s project Once around the world lies close to his heart; following its premiere at the Lucerne Festival in spring 2017, it will be presented in numerous cities this year. A highlight of last season was his repeat performance of Georg Friedrich Haas’ Trombone Concerto with the Basel Sinfonieorchester under Michal Nesterowicz as well as the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin under Evan Christ as part of the Ultraschall Festival in Berlin.

Born on the western Pacific island of Guam in 1960, Mike Svoboda grew up in Chicago and studied composition and conducting at the University of Illinois. One of his early teachers was Ben Johnston, who extended Harry Partch's experiments in just intonation tuning. In 1982 he won the BMI Young Composers Award and used the money to relocate to Europe. His time spent as trombonist and assistant with Karlheinz Stockhausen from 1984 to 1996 proved to be of eminent importance for Mike Svoboda’s musical development.

Mike Svoboda has repeatedly been recognised for his creative work, including with the Schneider-Schott-Musikpreis Mainz (2000), The German Record Critics' Award (2005) and the Praetorius Musikpreis Niedersachsen in the category “Music Innovation” (2008). Numerous CDs, mainly for the WERGO label, document his art both as a performer and composer. In 2005 he founded the Mike Svoboda Ensemble with music colleagues from around the world. He has been Professor for trombone and contemporary chamber music at the Hochschule für Musik Basel since 2007.  

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2018/2019 season

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