Matthias Pintscher (b. 1971): idyll for Orchestra (2014)
Instrumentation: 4 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 3 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon; 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba; timpani, chimes, crotales, guiro, medium tam tam, Styrofoam blocks, very large tam tam, bell plate, bongo drums, crash cymbals, large suspended cymbal, large triangle, medium suspended cymbal, thunder sheet, vibraphone, bell plate, marimba, spring coils, small suspended cymbal, tom tom, bass drum, cimes, glockenspiel, medium triangle, sandpaper blocks, metal blocks, harpsichord, celeste, piano; strings
Performance time: 23 minutes
Perhaps the London newspaper The Guardian was a bit late to the table when, in a feature article back in 2003, it called Matthias Pintscher "a composing prodigy." After all, Pintscher was 32 years old by then, with a long list of credits as both composer and conductor. But even in 2016, Pintscher is still remarkably young to have achieved so much in the world of classical music, so the prodigy designation remains tempting. That's doubly true for the English music press, which lays claims to the similarly prodigious composer-conductor Thomas Adès; born in the same year as Pintscher, Adès, like Pintscher, has happily outlived prodigy status.
At the same time, the classical tradition of the composer-conductor continues to grow more fragile these days. When Mahler was writing symphonies and conducting orchestral and operatic performances at the turn of the 20th century, composer-conductors were at the top of the musical pyramid; in fact, Mahler was more famous in his lifetime as a conductor than as a composer. By the time Leonard Bernstein took on the role of composer-conductor, superstar conductors had become international personalities. With a few notable exceptions — Bernstein, Pierre Boulez and George Szell among them — their job descriptions had diverged from composing. Small wonder that The Guardian and their respected music writer Andrew Clements took such apparent pleasure in celebrating Pintscher's work in both realms, crediting him with "the most impressive track record" of all German composers younger than Wolfgang Rihm. "He is still in his early 30s, yet has been attracting international attention for a decade," Clements noted.
Born in the town of Marl in what was then West Germany, Pintscher grew up conducting and playing the violin with local youth orchestras. In his late teens he spent a year in London working at the BBC and at the internationally renowned music publishers Boosey & Hawkes. He began his conducting studies with Peter Eötvös, but composing took a more prominent role in his life while he was in his early twenties. Soon after, he divided his time equally between the two disciplines of conducting and composing. In composition, Clements noted, his talents "attracted the attention of [Hans Werner] Henze, who invited Pintscher to the summer school he then ran at Montepulciano in Italy. By the time he was 22 he had already written three big symphonies, as well as concertos and chamber music, and, after a couple of years studying composition with Manfred Trojahn in Düsseldorf, his career was well and truly launched. The steady stream of commissions, prizes and scholarships had already begun."
What to Listen For
Pintscher is noted for his interpretations of contemporary music and has developed an affinity for repertoire of the late 19th and the 20th centuries — Bruckner, the French romantic masters, Beethoven, Berlioz, Ravel, Debussy, Stravinsky and for the Second Viennese School — along with a rich variety of contemporary scores. As a composer, he is prolific, and idyll is his most recent major orchestral work. It received its world premiere in 2014 with the Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of Franz Welser-Möst, followed by performances by the Bayerische Rundfunk and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. His official biography observes that Pintscher's compositions "are noted for the delicate sound world they inhabit, the intricacy of their construction and their precision of expression."
Among Pintscher's most celebrated compositions are his first opera, Thomas Chatterton, commissioned by Dresden Semperoper; Fünf Orchesterstücke for the Philharmonia Orchestra and Kent Nagano; Herodiade Fragmente for Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic; his first violin concerto en sourdine for Frank Peter Zimmermann and the Berlin Philharmonic; his second opera l’espace dernier which premiered at Paris National Opera (Bastille) in 2004; and his cello concerto for Truls Mørk, Reflections on Narcissus, which was premiered in Paris in 2006 with Christophe Eschenbach and the Orchestre de Paris. That year also included the premiere of a piece for Emmanuel Pahud (flute) and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, performed at the Lucerne Festival, where Pintscher was Composer-in-Residence in 2006. Osiris, a large-scale composition, was co-commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra and Carnegie Hall, and received its premiere conducted by Pierre Boulez in 2008. In spring 2010, his work towards Osiris received its U.S. premiere with the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Eschenbach. Also that spring, the New York Philharmonic debuted a co-commission with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, songs from Solomon’s garden for baritone and chamber orchestra. In April 2013 the Vienna Philharmonic performed Hérodiade-Fragmente at the Musikverein. His first solo piano composition debuted at London's Wigmore Hall in September 2013. Earlier in the same year, Uriel for cello and piano was premiered at the Frankfurt Alte Oper. Pintscher has also written a violin concerto, mar’eh, premiered in autumn 2011 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. And his three-part work, Sonic Eclipse: Celestial Object 1, 2 and 3, has been performed by ensembles around the world.