Towards Osiris

Matthias Pintscher

Matthias Pinstcher, at age 45, is a world renowned German conductor and composer. Currently, he is the Music Director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain, and beginning in 2016/17 is the Principal Conductor of the Lucerne Festival Academy. Describing his two professions, he has noted “My thinking as a conductor is informed by the process of my own writing and vice versa, of course.”   His music is characterized by delicate, gossamer sounds, combined in complex patterns, often amorphous, elusive, and sui generis. In a New York interview regarding towards Osiris (March 2010) he stated “It interesting to present little sounds of music separately and what they sound like as a whole…. I think it [Osiris] is a very poetic story, and it inspired me to write this work.” Towards Osiris was commissioned by the Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle: the score reads “written for Sir Simon Rattle and the friends of the Berlin Philharmonic.” It premiered on March 16, 2006.

Marcus Fine described Pinstcher’s style saying: “He has a marked weakness for the equivocal and the ambiguous… he is sound-obsessive… [the scores] are full of detailed performance instructions for the musicians and often he lays out special seating arrangements for the orchestra.”  Such specific, meticulous planning is probably an outgrowth of his early fascination with orchestral music: “The orchestra is still my instrument; the possibilities of the colors are so seductive because you can do everything with them.”

Mr. Pinstcher has provided the following program notes:

During the initial stages of conceiving an orchestral work which would eventually bear the title towards Osiris, I came across a work of Joseph Beuys from the 1970s that shows individual objects (sewing patterns on cardboard, originally created for his work Felt Suit) that were distributed in a free rhythmic sequence and mounted on a blank canvas on which nothing had been painted. This work, which made such an impression, was called by Beuys Osiris, and it inspired me to delve into the Osiris myth and its meaning through the centuries.

Osiris, the God of Fertility, was the son of Nut (the Goddess of the Sky) and Geb (the God of the Earth); the destiny that led to his death stood at the center of my investigations. After being murdered by his brother, Osiris remained in the Realm of the Dead, where he served as a judge in the afterlife. In Egyptian mythology, every person’s death is closely bound up with the destiny of Osiris. I was especially touched by the figure of Isis, Osiris’ loving sister and spouse, who, after her husband was dismembered by his raging brother (Set, the God of Combat), was able to reassemble him through the power of her love, and prevented further decay of his reconstructed body, resuscitating him with her wings. Prior to that, she had searched desperately and ceaselessly along the banks of the Nile for the remains of her beloved. This suggested to me a formal structure based upon various stages of fragmentation and reanimation: the initial state of completeness, the decomposition into separate pieces, and their reassembly and metamorphosis—a genuine musical process.

towards Osiris is to be understood as a self-standing orchestral study; it represents the first material composed of what would later be developed into a larger orchestral work (titled Osiris), which would be premiered in 2008 in Chicago (with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) under the direction of Pierre Boulez. The work played here therefore stands as a piece “on the way”—toward a stage of broader context, which Osiris, as one of the most complex figures in Egyptian mythology, allows us to grasp in musical form.

© Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, 2017

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Program Notes