Matthias Pintscher, director of the Ensemble intercontemporain: “We have to think about what the format of a concert should be in the world after the Covid-19 pandemic”

Matthias Pintscher, director of the Ensemble intercontemporain, May 10, 2022.

Presented as part of the ManiFeste festival, the concert given by the Ensemble intercontemporain (EIC), on June 9 at the Cité de la Musique, in Paris, will mark the end of the mandate of musical director begun in 2013 by Matthias Pintscher with a program that this 52-year-old Francophile German designed in a highly symbolic way.

Did you perceive the identity of the Ensemble intercontemporain from the first time you conducted it or did it reveal itself to you little by little?

No, we immediately grasp the DNA of the Ensemble – the clarity, the way of making a work breathe, from the point of view of the phrasing and above all of the timbre. And it does not change. Each time we recruit a new member, a young instrumentalist, I am amazed to see that he immediately melts into the identity of the group.

You have directed other formations attached to the contemporary repertoire. Do they also have their own identity?

Yes. It’s very subtle but, for example, the members of the Klangforum in Vienna are much more focused on the attack of sounds, whereas with us, at the EIC, the sound is always neat, sculpted.

You took up your duties in 2013, directing one of the great milestones in the history of music, “Déserts”, by Edgar Varèse. The program for your last appearance in this post also seems to be dictated by the concept of a history page…

In effect. To mark the end of my official mandate, I wanted to sum up what I have tried to accomplish during these ten years: to make people feel the link between today’s works and the great repertoire. So I wanted to include a piece by Anton Webern in the program (1883-1945)because all the works we create today owe him something.

The raison d’être of the Ensemble intercontemporain also lies in the revelation of new works…

Of course. We always look to the future. That’s why we commissioned Mark Andre, who is a bit of a brother to me. I am a German who has had a long-standing base in Paris, and Mark is a Frenchman who lives in Germany. I also programmed Lichtbogenby Kaija Saariaho (died June 2, after this interview), because this colleague, whom I greatly appreciate, is already part of our heritage and this piece is one of the first scores I conducted in my professional life, at the age of 20 or 21, with the Klangforum in Vienna. As for the work of Gérard Grisey, Four songs to cross the threshold, whose title will be very symbolic, on this occasion, it is such immense music that it is difficult to find words to talk about it. It will be up to the public to find them listening to this masterpiece.

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