The Strad Issue: January 2008
Musicians: Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin)* Christoph Desjardins (viola)†  Truls Mørk (cello)‡ Ensemble Intercontemporain† , NDR Symphony Orchestra*‡, Matthias Pintscher (conductor)
Composer: Pintscher

‘Muted’; ‘Shadows’; ‘Reflections’: if you were buying paint, they would be shades of grey, and as I remarked a couple of years back about a disc of Matthias Pintscher’s string quartets (see The Strad, @@@@@@), his is a dark room, but it’s worth accustoming yourself to the gloom. As was evident from their UK premieres, all three of these concertante works are detailed, sensuously realised scores that gather and evaporate in clouds of sonic mist. The near-inaudibility of en sourdine (2002) was especially haunting across the vast spaces of the Royal Albert Hall at the 2003 BBC Proms, and Frank Peter Zimmermann here reprises his traversal of the snowline with sovereign authority. Aided by fine German radio engineering, the orchestra glints and shimmers in the background, doing no more and no less than is needed to offset the soloist’s attempt to trace a line.

Pintscher’s work is largely preoccupied by melody and its disappearance. The fragile viola lines of tenebrae (2001) do little more than hint at a rediscovery – not, I have to say, aided by a curiously ephemeral electronic contribution. But the notes themselves are often beautiful, and best when they are simple, hardly more than a solo twitter and accompanying plink. Christoph Desjardins does well with a part that encompasses a vast range of colouristic possibilities.

The most recent work, Reflections on Narcissus (2005), does indeed court the solipsism suggested by its title (do cellists need any encouragement to commune with themselves?), and Narcissus has plenty of time (35 minutes) to gaze on his own wonder with self-consciously lyrical efflorescences that must, at least, be a joy to play. So they appear in Truls Mørk’s gorgeously sung account.  

Peter Quantrill