BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

Matthias Pintscher
The Scotsman

By Kenneth Walton


IF SATURDAY'S Hear and Now programme was intended to whet our appetites for the arrival next season of the BBC SSO's new artist-in-association, Matthias Pintscher, then it worked a treat.

The young German presented a programme aimed at exposing the two sides of his musicianship – conductor and composer – that will dominate his forthcoming formal relationship with the SSO.

Firstly, there's Pintscher's own very distinctive music, which is like a breath of fresh air – literally, at times.

Celestial Object 1, for solo trumpet and orchestra, opens with the player (Mark O'Keefe) puffing air into his trumpet. Before long, though, its strange and distant audibility comes into focus, a patchwork of spacey instrumental textures and gestural phrases that bubble with mutational intent, their natural objective being the music's ripe, golden climax.

The same process underlines Transir for flute and chamber orchestra. Soloist Sebastian Wittiber articulated its alluring serenity with a delicacy and intimacy that was mesmerising and quietly intense.

Much of the magic of these performances stemmed from Pintscher's authority as a conductor, which was equally instrumental in shaping works by Varèse and Wolkgang Rihm that completed a superb programme.

When did we last hear Varèse's Intégrales delivered with such searing definition? When did we last hear the same composer's seminal chamber work Octandre performed at all? Let's have much more of this bold ambition from Pintscher when he officially takes up his post.