Saturday, October 22, 2016

Ensemble InterContemporain and Matthias Pintscher Concert "Hommage à Boulez" in Taipei on 2016/10/21

Time: 2016/10/21 (Friday), 19:30-22:00 (approximately)
Venue: National Concert Hall, Taipei
Performers: Ensemble InterContemporain, conducted by Matthis Pintscher

Program: (official program notes)
Additional information:
György Ligeti (1923-2006)
Chamber Concerto
I. Corrente
II. Calmo, sostenuto
III. Movimento preciso e meccanico
IV. Presto
Composed in 1969-70, this piece helped make the ensemble of soloists a standard line-up for new music, though Ligeti's treatment has had few equals in terms of fantasy and delightfulness. It begins with the instruments moving within a narrow range, sliding in register, until suddenly the whole pitch space is opened up by the arrival of piled octaves. Their pure sound is soon muddied, and wonderful confusion resumes: at one point the wind instruments start to sing a massively amplified folktune. Finally the music explodes into dispersed melody, only to be clamped again. 'My general idea for this movement', Ligeti has remarked, 'was the surface of a stretch of water, where everything takes place below the surface.' The second movement takes a different route through dense chords, jostling movements and strains of melody sounding like echoes of folksong or Romantic music, such as are played by a plaintive trio of horn, oboe d'amore and trombone. After a fortissimo climax, something absolutely inevitable and yet totally unexpected turns up around the corner: a tritone sounding quietly in octaves. From this develops a second part of the movement, which beautifully disintegrates … to be replaced by an extraordinary musical machine, a disconnected chirruping of regular rhythms from different odd ensembles. The presto finale continues the mechanical feeling a little, but the twitterings are now rustlings that develop and echo through clusters, single intervals and arpeggios, and that race around the small orchestra in a perpetuum mobile of great virtuosity. Once again, as in the first and second movements, one way out of the maze appears to be through melody, and a line starts out on the horn, most positive of instruments. But the melody quickly begins to lose its distinctiveness, and the perpetual motion continues until another tritone, like a single light of gathering intensity, begins to shine through the texture and freeze the music, leaving only disjointed echoes.
Notes by Paul Griffiths © 2009


I have only heard of the "contemporary classics" in the second half of the program:
Brief thoughts

This concert was Eensemble InterContemporain's homage to Pierre Boulez, who passed away in January this year, at the age of 90. 

I am no expert on 21st C. music, but Pintscher's performance leans towards emotional effects at the cost of contrapuntal clarity. Compared with recordings by Pierre Boulez/EIC and Reinbert de Leeuw/Schönberg Ensemble/ASKO Ensemble I feared that the second half of the program was given the short end of the stick. Still, this was a thoroughly enjoyable concert, and I got to know four new pieces, all in the first half of the recital. I especially enjoyed Bruno Mantovani's Les Danses interrompues, although Ping liked Pintscher's newly-minted Whirling tissue of light, for piano quite a lot. Les Danses was wonderfully inventive, while Whirling sensual and impressionistic. 

Unfortunately, the only Taiwanese piece 謝宗仁(1981-):《楓之絮語》木管五重奏(2007) (Tsung-Jen Hsieh: Ahorngeflüster, for wind quintet) was a let-down. Surely we do not wish to keep playing compositions by old masters like Hwang-Long Pan. Surely it was a great idea to have younger composers' pieces performed on international stages like this. Alas, in my humble opinion, Hsieh's effort was hardly artful or representative of the current classical-music scene in Taiwan. 

One really exciting thing about this concert was a relative large and enthusiastic audience with a good mix of ages, from high school and university students (in troves!) to gray-haired seniors. I have been to some concerts halls in the world, and this audience of contemporary music was the very best mix I have seen outside of festival circles. There is great hope for the art music in Taiwan, I think.

Note: A preconcert 20-minute talk was given by Prof. CHEN Hui-Mei, who spoke more on the historical background than on the actual analysis of the music. I wish there was more of the latter. My interest of the modern music was nurtured by a radio program in the 90's hosted by Hwang-Long Pan, whose eclectic selection and insightful commentary helped me explore this wonderful world.

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