Ensemble Intercontemporain offers an answer to attacks by affirming life

11.15.15
Matthias Pintscher
The Washington Post

The contrast with Edgard Varese’s “Octandre” could not have been greater. There’s a gleefully explosive quality to this 1927 work, which roars and screeches and erupts at every turn with Machine Age mania, and under Pintscher’s baton the ensemble — arguably the finest contemporary music group on the planet — turned in an almost disconcertingly vivid performance.

Pintscher is as known for his composing as for his conducting, and his three-part “Profiles of Light” (in its U.S. premiere) proved to be a work of rigorous, uncompromising modernism. Pianists Hidéki Nagano and Dimitri Vassilakis and cellist Éric-Maria Couturier turned in an impassioned reading, but the music was easier to admire than to really fall for — the kind of Serious European Composing that sounds increasingly hidebound in the face of the adventurous, unbuttoned and voraciously free-ranging music coming out of the American new-music scene.

Georgy Ligeti’s “Chamber Concerto” for 13 instrumentalists, on the other hand, remains as flat-out gorgeous today as it did in 1970. Pintscher gave it a luminous and superbly detailed reading, richly complex but instantly and irresistibly engaging. The packed house responded with an extended standing ovation — as much, perhaps, for the ensemble’s fortitude in adversity, as for its stunning musicianship. 

Read the rest of the review here