Cleveland Orchestra roves widely and brilliantly on program with Pintscher, Tiberghien

Matthias Pintscher
Cleveland Plain Dealer

At his Severance Hall appearance Thursday night with the Cleveland Orchestra, French pianist Cedric Tiberghien demonstrated the qualities that have made him an artist worth following.
Guest conductor Matthias Pintscher opened this anything-but-standard program with his own "Ex Nihilo" ("Out of Nothing"), a short, attractive exercise in post-Boulez sound-sculpting for large orchestra. Its straightforward procedures -- the fabric of the piece slowly weaves itself together from seemingly random sounds -- meant that one hardly needed to know anything about the work's origins in jet-lag disorientation to "get" the music.
Rarely rising above pianissimo, and only occasionally employing the full orchestra, "Ex Nihilo" was a pleasant wake-up call that, for all its disembodied fragments of sound (and its startling, percussion-driven outbursts), felt familiar and almost traditional.
Pintscher navigated this dark thicket of music with confidence and the interpretive will required to hold together all its disparate elements.
Pintscher was a protege of Pierre Boulez and is now principal conductor of the Lucerne Festival Academy in Switzerland, a summer festival school for modern music. One might therefore expect that his reading of Debussy's "La Mer" would follow his mentor's mode.
This was not the case. Thursday night, Pintscher presented a wholly personal reading of Debussy's well-known masterpiece.
More muscular and vigorous than Boulez's interpretation, Pintscher's account of "La Mer" combined fierce attention to detail with exceptional energy and, in the hair-raising climaxes, a grand Romantic sweep. Pintscher was especially effective in the pointillistic second movement, "Play of Waves," where seemingly disparate fragments swirl together into energetic focus only to swirl apart again in shimmering threads.
The orchestra was in excellent form here, and the result was further proof that it's possible to carry off a full and satisfying program without a single war-horse by Mozart, Beethoven, or Brahms.
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