Matthias Pintscher Composer
Biography by Seth Brodsky
Matthias Pintscher writes: “I have attempted to shape a situation which is designed to give the listener the impression that he is in the middle of this ‘space’, that he is being directly addressed…even though he stands outside, and listens from without…”
As a composer, Pintscher knows that the most productive creative tensions stem from the paradoxical, and if there is a fundamental contradiction at work in his music, it might be this: the meticulous construction of a space, a stage or landscape, that the music itself endeavors to transgress, even to obliterate. Hence a typical Pintscher score, like his Fünf Ochesterstücke (1997) or Sur “Depart” (1999), begins as a kind of “imaginary theater,” the articulation and limpidity of its events and gestures seemingly sheathed over by scrupulous sonic inchoateness. Soon enough, however, the music seems to peel itself away from the inexplicit: sound objects seem to crystallize and set themselves into a kind of temporal amber; fulminating eruptions balloon the landscape to jeopardous diameters; and by the last bars, the music’s trajectory either violently lacerates its link to the expected and classifiable, or sublimates into a silence whose uneasy in-finality forces the suspicion that it continues into regions listeners can’t quite get to.
To a strong degree, these rhetorical and expressive qualities are the tattoos of Pintscher’s early influences. Though he is German, his aesthetic and sound-world are equally informed by Gallic tastes; indeed, consummately “German” works like his Choc (1996), with its slicing jags and angles, lasering lines, and stiff puncture points (reminiscent of Lachenmann and Rihm) have given way to an increasingly “French” sound. In particular, Pierre Boulez’s masterwork Pli selon Pli is a kind of phantom presence in Pintscher’s works from the turn of the century, especially his Mallarmé-setting Herodiade-Fragmente (1999): both works inhabit a similar symbolist hush, that dangerous, evasive ambiguity nourished by exquisite precision and detachment. Sounds hang more than move, teetering and humming with immanent revelations. And along with this resonance between sound worlds comes Pintscher’s general resurrection of a central Modernist dream: In his desire to start from scratch and solitude, and to mark an authentic departure into unknown territories, Pintscher abides by poet Arthur Rimbaud’s famous exhortation that “one must be absolutely modern.”
Pintscher also abides by another of Rimbaud’s calls: start young and be prodigious. Pintscher, who is already a celebrity in Europe with two successful operas and commissions abounding from the world’s best ensembles, is far from the end of his career, hence the scope of his modernism and nature of his unknown territories remain tantalizingly open. This said, one must admit that Pintscher seems a good deal better adjusted than the misaligned Rimbaud. Born in Marl in 1971, Pintscher learned to play piano, violin, percussion, and even conducting before he began any formal training in composition with Giselher Klebe in Detmold between 1988 and 1992. Continuing his studies with Manfred Trojan, Pintscher also began to attend European festivals and seminars ranging from Peter Eötvös’ composition classes in Vienna and H.W. Henze’s festival in Montepulciano; in 1995 the composer also participated in Stuttgart’s Composer/Conductor Seminar. Pintscher’s first opera, the Wozzeck-influenced Thomas Chatterton, premiered to great success at the Dresden Semperoper in 1998 and soon followed further high-profile premieres in Berlin under Abbado and Hamburg under Eschenbach. In 2000, the Expo featured a performance of Pintscher’s music theater work Gesprungene Glocken, and summer 2001 saw the premiere of his second opera, Heliogabal, to a libretto by Thomas Jonigk. Pintscher continues to face the imposing and self-imposed challenge to overstep his own creative limits.