Conductor Matthias Pintscher provides the right light touch from NACO's performance of Ravel

Matthias Pintscher
Ottawa Citizen

Conductor Matthias Pintscher has this talent for making the creative process behind the music come to life. Currently the music director of the famed Ensemble Intercontemporain, the Paris orchestra founded by Pierre Boulez, Pintscher is, like Boulez, an acclaimed composer in his own right and teaches composition at Juilliard. When he’s on the podium, you can almost hear the pen scratches marking the sheet music on his stand. He can shine a flashlight on the inner plumbing of a work without sacrificing emotion, and like a sculptor, he gives the sense of knowing exactly what the finished product should be before he even picks up his tools.

Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite contains some of the composer’s most winsome, intimate and evocative music. Pintscher directed with a light touch, coaxing decadent textures and colours from NACO’s musicians. The Princess of the Pagodas was exotically resplendent, while the Conversations of Beauty and the Beast featured a delicate and melancholy dialogue between clarinet and contrabassoon (Uncharacteristically, Yosuke Kawasaki’s violin solos were more beast than beauty).

Pintscher’s compositional sense − and sensitivity− was especially evident in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6. The first movement was particularly clear-eyed: lively and energetic, a true “awakening of happy feelings”, as Beethoven indicated. Inner voices, usually obscured, were gently illuminated. Yet for all his intellectual work, Pintscher’s interpretation never felt forced or fussy. 

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