This summer I noted the appointment of Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki as the new director of Pierre Boulez's Ensemble Intercontemporain. Pierre Gervasoni recently wrote an article (Débuts réussis pour Susanna Mälkki à la tête de l'Ensemble Intercontemporain, February 26) for Le Monde, describing her first concerts with the group (my translation and links added):
Pierre Boulez never goes unnoticed in a concert hall. Especially when it concerns the one in the Cité de la musique, in Paris, where the Ensemble Intercontemporain (Eic), which he founded in 1976, is in residence. For its 30-year anniversary, the Eic got itself a new musical director, Susanna Mälkki, a Finn only slightly older than the organization she will be in charge of beginning with the 2006-2007 season. She conducted the Eic on Friday, February 24, for the first time since her nomination, an event much anticipated by lovers of contemporary music and by ... Pierre Boulez. Apparently more motivated than intimidated by Boulez's presence, Susanna Mälkki got to work with a piece by Marc Monnet, for solo horn and 18 instruments. An introduction that put more attention on the work than on the interpreters, Mouvement autre mouvement (in the form of an étude), quickly elated the audience in an appeal to the senses, common in Marc Monnet.The program also included György Ligeti's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra and, most interestingly, a version of Stravinsky's Pulcinella for three voices (mezzo-soprano Maïté Beaumont, tenor Johannes Chum, and bass Tigran Martirossian). Susanna Mälkki will conduct Ensemble Intercontemporain again on March 8 (all music by Magnus Lindberg) and March 25 (music by Jonathan Harvey and Emmanuel Nunes).
It was not the solo horn who was leading the dialogue with the ensemble but his double, hidden beneath the stage. The illusion was carried off with the relay assured by the clarinet in a mysterious timbre that made it seem like an extension of the horn. Marc Monnet's ear training was successful. Although the practices of this soon-to-be sexagenarian composer, who does not seem his age either physically or musically, are familiar, one encounters the "other movements" with the sense of ingenuity found in all daring creations. One smiles while discovering the linguistic tricks (breathing and other noiselike sounds), more than language, required of the horn soloist, including Charleston cymbals!