Alban's Blog

Conducting Composer No.2 – Matthias Pintscher

Rehearsal with Hamburg Phil and composer Matthias PintscherSince I am have not really played that many contemporary concertos in my life (from living composers I mean, and that would be six or seven, I guess) it was quite an experience to work with two of the most famous ones within two weeks. After John Adams 10 days ago with the Brittencellosymphony in London I now got my first concerto written in this millenium under my belt, conducted by the composer himself, Matthias Pintscher. I must admit I was rather stressed out the last three weeks leading towards this collaboration because I remembered him as very picky from the time when I premiered his “Janusgesicht” for viola and cello a couple of years ago. Imagine my surprise when I got to Hamburg, barely having memorized this 35 minute concerto, commuting back and fourth between Göttingen Hamburg (having played there with incredibly gifted 21-year-old conductor Lionel Bringuier), and Matthias Pintscher didn’t express any wish to see me before the rehearsal. Didn’t he want to check if I did everything the way he had intended to? Or the way Truls Mörk did it in the world premier last year? No, we didn’t meet until 30 minutes before our first rehearsal, he was absolutely charming and lovely, we talked a bit about our lives, about the orchestra and about 10 minutes about his piece, which actually is not called a concerto but “Reflections on Narcissus”.

I was in heaven – my plan to prepare as well as possible and not having any questions about the pieceDiscussions on stage in rehearsal with Matthias Pintscher worked perfectly; he embraced my interpretation, was open about suggestions, told me few minor details, and at the end it was the most comfortable and effortless collaboration I could have wished for. I was rather impressed how well he did as a conductor though. The score being incredibly complex and detailed, he didn’t commit the mistake in getting lost in these details during rehearsals, but he went for the long lines, inspiring the orchestra on the way and even managing to ignore the sometimes nasty little comments from the concertmaster.

We had two rehearsals and the dress rehearsal, and it was so worth it. At the end I came to the conclusion that this was a masterpiece, something I hadn’t believed while practising it. But now, two performances and rather enthusiast audience reactions later I am convinced that “Narcissus” deserves its place in the modern cello repertoire. Definitely a tough one to pull off, especially because every single orchestra instrument has a very challenging part, it is absolutely worth the effort and the pain. Oh, I cursed while learning it quite often, didn’t really believe that this possibly could be a success, but this experience confirmed my theory again: you never know the quality of a piece until you have performed it. And I am so glad I did! Looking forward to the next time I can challenge my poor little brain with sooo many notes…


  • Christoph Eichbichler

    Dear Alban,

    Yesterday I have heard Pintscher’s “Reflections on Narcissus” for the first time in my life. Great music!!! Thanks for your outstanding performance. Did you feel the audience during the closing of the piece? It was amazing.

  • Alban

    Dear Christoph – yes, I felt the tension of the audience, it was quite a wonderful feeling, and I agree, it is great music, glad you enjoyed it (since I am sure for some people it was a stretch to listen to not only beauty)!

  • Guido

    There aren’t any recordings of the Pintscher are there? Great to have such a good reaction from contemporary music.

  • Alban

    Hi Guido,
    yes, there are several recordings of Pintscher, I think even on Deutsche Grammphon – but since I am not interested in recordings I don’t really know. together with Tabea Zimmermann I recorded his “Janusgesicht” for viola and cello for some small German label (forgot which one), it was a portrait cd for Pintscher. Truls Mörk recorded the celloconcerto (well, it’s not called concerto, it’s called “Reflections on Narcissus”.
    But I could believe that his music works better on stage than on cd.
    Best wishes,



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