Conductor is instrumental in concert success

Matthias Pintscher
Herald Scotland

By Catherine Robb

Recently appointed as the BBC SSO’s artist-in-association, on Saturday evening Matthias Pintscher conducted his concert debut with charm and self-assurance.

During his interview in the first half, Pintscher described the orchestra as a delicate instrument in itself – it is evidently one he knows how to play. The orchestra opened and closed as a reduced ensemble, with the sharp and insistent rhythmic sounds of Edgard Varèse. Octandre (1923) and Intégrales (1925), although angular and percussive, were performed with an intimate quality that gave rare melodic passages their own space and the climaxes room for growth. This subtlety was again evident during the performance of Wolfgang Rihm’s Verwandlung 3, which had a Strauss-esque hint, adding to its already philharmonic intensity.

The concert, recorded for Radio 3’s Hear and Now contemporary music composer portrait, not only displayed the technical ability of the SSO, but also showcased Pintscher as an expressive composer. Celestial Object 1 delved into a world of subtle textures, where solo trumpeter Mark O’Keeffe was denied a typical brass-like concerto, and instead interacted with different sonorities and sounds. Transir for solo flute was unremarkably similar: self-indulgent and more gestural than concrete.

Although the evening could have suffered from the slightly disjointed programme, it did not. The SSO emerged with an fluidity which made for an approachable interpretation. Under the baton of Pintscher we were offered a welcome departure from exclusivity and guided through demanding music with an air of modest confidence.