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Eschenbach Conducts Pintscher and Beethoven

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Christoph Eschenbach, the new music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, officially began his tenure this weekend. My review of last night's performance was published at DCist today:

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Pintscher, Hérodiade-Fragmente, M. Montalvo, Philadelphia Orchestra, C. Eschenbach
DCist Goes to the Symphony: Eschenbach Begins (DCist, October 2):
Christoph Eschenbach is here and in the sold-out Kennedy Center Concert Hall last night, the excitement was palpable for his first program with the National Symphony Orchestra. The new music director's tenure promises a focus on contemporary music such as Matthias Pintscher's Hérodiade-Fragmente, which opened this first subscription concert. The piece, having premiered in 1999, received its Washington debut last night; in fact, this was the first time that the NSO has performed any piece by Pintscher. To keep more traditionally minded listeners interested, he is pairing many of these modern works with audience favorites, as he did last night with Beethoven's always popular Ninth Symphony.

After leading the orchestra in the season-opening national anthem, Eschenbach brought Matthias Pintscher himself to the stage to speak about the new piece, a strategy that goes a long way to softening an audience's reaction to unfamiliar music. Hérodiade-Fragmente is an extended solo song that is set to an unfinished text by Stéphane Mallarmé, a soliloquy in which Herodias, the mother of Salome, speaks of her own deeply conflicted feelings for her daughter and John the Baptist. Mallarmé's symbolist poetry is ambiguous, but reveals a psychologically disturbed character consumed by lust and sexual frustration. Pintscher uses a large orchestra, including an extensive percussion section — flexatone, lion's roar, anvil, pine bongos, cowbells, and much more — to create washes of dissonant, discordant instrumental sound that evoke the character's derangement and desire. Soprano Marisol Montalvo, one of Eschenbach's favorite collaborators having recorded the Pintscher work with him, was a dramatic sensation. Monralvo possesses not a large voice, but one with shimmering purity, especially effective on very high soft notes and matched by evanescent soft textures from the orchestra. [Continue reading]
National Symphony Orchestra
Beethoven, Ninth Symphony / Pintscher, Hérodiade-Fragmente
With Christoph Eschenbach, conductor
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

Anne Midgette, The National Symphony Orchestra audience directs its attention to Eschenbach (Washington Post, October 1)

Thomas Huizenga, Christoph Eschenbach Ushers In A New Era For National Symphony Orchestra (Deceptive Cadence, October 1)

Christoph Eschenbach: Husband To A Hundred (NPR, October 2)

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