The German-born composer and conductor Matthias Pintscher didn’t know what to expect when he traveled to Missouri in March to lead a series of performances with the Kansas City Symphony. He had never been to the city, nor had he worked with its orchestra.
But after a few days of rehearsing and performing works by Ravel, Ligeti and Scriabin, Pintscher felt a deep connection with the ensemble. “There was magic,” he said in an interview. “A willingness to really give the best.”
The orchestra was impressed, too: On Tuesday, it announced that Pintscher, 52, had agreed to serve as its next music director, beginning with a five-year term in 2024. He will succeed Michael Stern, who has been the orchestra’s leader since 2005, and lead the orchestra for 10 weeks each season.
Danny Beckley, the orchestra’s president and chief executive, offered Pintscher the job only a couple of days after his March visit. He described Pintscher’s relationship with the orchestra as “electric” and said he hoped Pintscher could help to get more people into the concert hall.
“We are committed to making orchestral music more appealing to a far wider audience, and I think Matthias can really help make that happen,” Beckley said in a statement.
Pintscher, who lives in New York City, rose to prominence as a composer, writing a range of music, for orchestra and chamber ensembles, as well as solo pieces for piano and voice. His compositions are often evocative and mysterious, showcasing the ability of instruments like the clarinet and the double bass to whisper.
He has also won accolades as a conductor, serving as music director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris, a new music group, as well as the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra in Switzerland. (His tenure at the Ensemble Intercontemporain, which he has led for a decade, ends this season.) He is a member of the composition faculty at Juilliard.
In Kansas City, he said, he felt a sense of belonging. He recalled chatting with a stranger at a supermarket; after he introduced himself, she immediately bought tickets to a concert.
“It was such a warm welcome, by the city, the locals, the public, the musicians,” he said. “It was a happy arrival.”