BBC Symphony Orchestra/ Pintscher/ Truls Mork, Barbican, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

The BBC Symphony Orchestra has a fine line to follow. The Public Service Remit must inform its programming but balancing potential crowd-pullers against performing new or unusual work, is imperative. And on this occasion it failed, the Barbican bleak with swathes of empty seats waiting for bums, the upper floors closed. It was, of course, broadcast - and may, indeed, have sounded a lot better in this form than in the concert hall.

Who had chosen the programme? Stravinsky's Firebird Suite shouldn't have frightened the punters, but little-known Messiaen, Ravel, and a UK premiere by the young German composer, Matthias Pintscher, kept the audience away in droves. And that was not for want of a well-known soloist: the cellist, Truls Mork. But the entire concert was conducted by the composer whose name is scarcely familiar - a brave, but perhaps foolhardy act.

Matthias Pintscher, whose Reflections on Narcissus - for cello and orchestra was receiving its UK premiere, is a darling of the Continental avant-garde. He is in his mid-thirties and has received a lot of attention, being likened in career pattern to our Thomas Adès. He may have been taken up by Abbado, Eschenbach, Rattle and orchestras to match, but Adès is in another league.

Pintscher's composition is said to have pleased both Henze and Lachenmann which immediately invites some suspicion since these two composers stylistically occupy opposite ends of the spectrum. And in Reflections on Narcissus, Pintscher seemed to offer little except an acute ear for orchestral colour and texture in an incoherent structure. Time and again, the truly magnificent Truls Mork was overwhelmed, either by cackling percussion or jagged fortissimo splashes from the orchestra, as he valiantly tried to project stratospherically high notes, often harmonics.

Towards the end of this work, principal cellist, Susan Monks, appeared to help out, the piece momentarily becoming a double concerto. All too seldom was Mork allowed to lead, and in all too much of the piece his hard work went unrewarded. Messiaen's Un Sourire and Ravel's Shéhérazade - Ouverture de féerie were pleasant curios but the Stravinsky felt out of Pintscher's range.