New Music at Carnegie Hall: Carnegie Hall Commissions
About The Composers

Matthias Pintscher

Carnegie Hall Commissions

Matthias Pintscher began his career playing violin and conducting the local youth orchestra in his hometown in western Germany, and he eventually began to write music as well. In his late teens, he spent a year in London, studying music and learning the business firsthand, working at the BBC and at Boosey & Hawkes, the publishing house. An invitation from Hans Werner Henze to attend his summer music school in Montepulciano, Italy, in 1991 was decisive in forming his composer’s voice, as were subsequent encounters with the Hungarian composer and conductor Peter Eötvös, the German avant-garde leader Helmut Lachenmann, and Pierre Boulez. By the time Pintscher was 22, he had written three big symphonies as well as concertos and works of chamber music.

Throughout his young career, the balance between conducting and composing has continued to shift, and Pintscher admits that his thinking as a conductor has been informed by the music he writes and vice versa. He has conducted many prominent orchestras, including the Cleveland Orchestra and the Staatskapelle Berlin.

Pintscher first achieved international attention as a composer with Thomas Chatterton, an opera about an 18th-century English poet who committed suicide at the age of 17, which premiered in Dresden in 1998. A second opera, L’espace dernier, based on the life and work of poet Arthur Rimbaud, was first staged at the Opéra Bastille in Paris in 2004. Other major works include Five Orchestral Pieces, premiered at the Salzburg Festival in 1997 under Kent Nagano; Hérodiade-Fragmente, first performed by the Berliner Philharmoniker under Claudio Abbado; a violin concerto, en sourdine, written for Frank Peter Zimmermann, who gave the first performance in Berlin in 2003; and Towards Osiris, one of the four “asteroid pieces” commissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker to be performed as postscripts to Holst’s The Planets.

From 2000 to 2002, Pintscher was composer-in-residence of the Cleveland Orchestra, which gave the premiere of his with lilies white under Christoph von Dohnányi, and he has held similar residencies elsewhere, including at the Lucerne Festival in 2005 and the Cologne Philharmonie this season.

Many of Pintscher’s works are evocations of other artworks, including the poetry of Mallarmé and sculpture by Giacometti. Below, he describes how his new piece, Osiris, was inspired by a work by Joseph Beuys (1921–1986), the influential German artist.