‘This is magic’ – Frankfurter Allgemeine

Le Encantadas o le avventure nel mare delle meraviglie

Olga Neuwirth, Ensemble intercontemporain, Matthias Pintscher

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The Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth has made a name for herself in Europe as an important music innovator. In her new work Le Encantadas you can hear why. The music is inspired by Herman Melville’s descriptions of the Galapagos Islands (formerly known as Encantadas) and the sounds of Venice, the city of islands. The performance at the Gashouder is set up accordingly, with musicians placed like islands in the space, fully realising the music’s rich details and intense serenity.

The piece will be performed by the Ensemble intercontemporain led by Matthias Pintscher and the sound magicians of IRCAM, who return to the festival after last year’s triumph at the Gashouder with Pierre Boulez’ Répons. It’s an unmissable opportunity to get acquainted with the wonderful subtleties of Neuwirth’s music.

Programme Olga Neuwirth

Festivalfocus: Olga Neuwirth

Although her music is not yet played often in the Netherlands, Olga Neuwirth is one of the leading international contemporary composers. Her innovative work combines influences from avant garde as well as popular cultures. Drawing on sources from literature, architecture, pop music and cartoons, she is a composer in tune with the modern world. The Holland Festival will stage her exceptional work in a special programme of concerts. 

Neuwirth is known for composing listening experiences, for example in her most recent major work, the acclaimed Le Encantadas, which will be performed at the Gashouder. This piece creates a great impact by the unusual spatial grouping of the performers. In her piece Kloing! a computer controlled Bösendorfer grand piano interacts with a pianist and video footage. In addition, the bassoon virtuoso Pascal Gallois will play her piece Torsion, written especially for him, and composition students from the Royal Conservatory will perform their interpretation of her music in one of their lunchtime concerts. Neuwirth will also be a guest at De kunst van het luisteren (The Art of Listening), an event where she will speak about the way we listen to music and the world around us. It’s a great opportunity to get better acquainted with one of the most exciting composers of our age.


Background information

In recent years, the Holland Festival has staged a series of special concerts on location, featuring groundbreaking compositions by the twentieth century avant-garde (Varèse, Xenakis, Cage, Nono en Boulez). This year, we continue this series with a new work by the award-winning Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth (1968), who used to be regarded as something of an enfant terrible in her home country, but since has become widely known across Europe.

In collaboration with the Ensemble intercontemporain, conductor Matthias Pintscher and the electronic music and audio experts from IRCAM in Paris, Neuwirth will acoustically transform de Gashouder into the Church of San Lorenzo in Venice. In this imaginary cathedral, she will take the audience along on a seventy-minute sonic journey through a mysterious archipelago. At 47, Neuwirth cuts a striking figure among the either ancient or deceased men listed above, but she's certainly not out of place in their company. Just like her predecessors, she likes using electronic techniques and acoustic experiments to open up new sounds worlds. Whereas her work usually has political connotations, Le encantadas o le avventure nel mare delle meraviglie (The Encantadas, or the adventures on the sea of wonders) focuses entirely on the search for new sounds. 

The title of Neuwirth's score is taken from American writer Herman Melville's novella The Encantadas (1854), a collection of ten short philosophical sketches of the Galapagos Islands – also known as Las Encantadas or The Enchanted Isles. Melville depicts the archipelago as a magical, but desolate world; an uninhabited and cruel land, yet at the same time a place full of memories and stories. Neuwirth transfers the story to Venice and its lagoon, with at its centre the church of San Lorenzo, which in 1984 served as the backdrop to the world premiere of Luigi Nono's premiere of Prometeo. As a 15-year old, Neuwirth witnessed this special event. Whereas at the time Nono had a special acoustic space designed by Renzo Piano placed inside the church, Neuwirth has chosen to recreate the church's exceptional acoustics with the use of electronic means.

Le Encantadas is written for six musical ensembles spread across the space, samples and live electronics. The piece is an imaginary journey across five islands, with two intermezzos, a prologue and an epilogue. At the beginning we hear recorded soundscapes of the lagoon, slowly blending with the sounds played by the instrumental ensembles. The sounds depict an imaginary sea voyage from one island to the next. One by one, the islands slowly come into 'view' before disappearing into the distance again. As we near the city, recorded voices become more prominent. As well as Neuwirth's trademark recorded dialogues we can also hear the voice of Hatsune Miku, the Japanese cyber diva who gave a virtual performance in The End at last year's Holland Festival. Mixing recorded and digital voices, Neuwirth creates a surreal, in her own words 'androgynous sound'. Le Encantadas will treat the audience to a scintillating spectacle. 



Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth (1968)has a deep fascination for sound, which she developed listening to the spectral music of her teacher Tristan Murail and the late works by Luigi Nono. In her musical universe, avant-garde music is frequently interspersed with elements from popular music and radio-play-like recordings. Her scores are often labyrinthine aural journeys, exploring the spatiality of sound.

 She also tends to include references to film, literature and architecture. Trauma, power relations and the inequality of the sexes frequently play a prominent role in her art. It's a fascination she shares with Nobel Prize Laureate Elfriede Jelinek, who she has worked with on several occasions. 

From 1985 until 1993, Neuwirth studied in San Francisco (composition, film and fine art), at the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna and at the Parisian IRCAM institute for electronic music. Neuwirth had her international breakthrough in 1991 at the Wiener Festwochen, where she presented a series of mini operas based on texts by Elfriede Jelinek. Together with Jelinek she also developed Lost Highway (2003), a total theatre experience with recorded video imagery, based on David Lynch's eponymous 1997 film. In 2011, Neuwirth and Jelinek teamed up again for American Lulu, an adaptation of Alban Berg's opera Lulu with a distinctly jazzy score written by Neuwirth. In her recent work. the 19th century American writer Herman Melville has been a significant inspiration; not only in The Outcast – A Musicstallation-Theater with Video (2012), but also in Le Encantadas (2015). Neuwirth has won several music awards. In 2010 she was the first woman to receive the Grand Austrian State Prize. 

The German composer and conductor Matthias Pintscher (1971) considers composing and conducting to be perfectly complementary. The combination makes him a composer with a good sense of an orchestra's possibilities, and a conductor with a good insight into the composer's perspective. Pintscher’s compositions are noted for the delicate sound world they inhabit, the intricacy of their construction and their precision of expression. Among his most celebrated achievements are his opera Thomas Chatterton, written for the Semperoper in Dresden, Fünf Orchesterstücke for the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Herodiade Fragmente and his first violin concerto en sourdine, both for the Berlin Philharmonic. Since September 2013, Pintscher has been music director at the Ensemble intercontemporain. He's also Artist-in-Association with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Artist-in-Residence at the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and the Kölner Philharmonie (Cologne Philharmonic). His scores have been performed by leading international conductors, including Simon Rattle, Pierre Boulez, Claudio Abbado and Valery Gergiev. Pintscher has worked with several prominent contemporary music ensembles, including the German Ensemble Modern, Klangforum Wien, Ensemble contrechamps and the Scharoun Ensemble. As a conductor, he has developed an affinity for contemporary composers as well as the repertoire of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He has conducted a roster of world class orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Berlin, the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, MDR Sinfonieorchester Leipzig, Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the orchestra of the Paris Opera. Pintscher teaches composition lessons at the Juillard School in New York, he's artistic director of the Heidelberg Frühling Festival and a curator of the Impuls Romantik Festival in Frankfurt. 

The Ensemble intercontemporain was formed in 1976 by Pierre Boulez with the support of Michel Guy (who was Minister of Culture at the time) and with the collaboration of Nicholas Snowman. Sharing a passion for 20th and 21st century music, the ensemble's 31 soloists are employed on permanent contract, enabling them to fulfil the major aims of the ensemble: performance, creation and education for young musicians and the general public. Under the artistic direction of Matthias Pintscher the musicians work in close collaboration with composers, exploring instrumental techniques and developing projects which interweave music, dance, theater, film, video and visual arts. In collaboration with IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique), the Ensemble intercontemporain is also active in the field of synthetic sound generation. New pieces are commissioned and performed on a regular basis. The ensemble is renowned for its strong emphasis on music education, giving concerts for children, creative workshops for students, training programs for future performers, conductors, composers, etc. Since 2004, for several weeks every summer, the ensemble have tutored talented young instrumentalists, conductors and composers in the field of contemporary repertoire at the Lucerne Festival Academy, an intensive course organised by the Lucerne Festival. Based at the new Paris Philharmonie since the start of 2015, the ensemble perform and record in France as well as abroad, taking part in major festivals worldwide. The ensemble is financed by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication and receives additional support from the Paris City Council. 

IRCAM, the Paris-based ‘Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique’, is one of the largest public research centres for music production and science in the world. Headed by Frank Madlener since 2006, the centre is a unique place where 160 people are employed and artistic research goes hand in hand with scientific and technological innovation. The institute's three main domains are artistic production, research and education, which are reflected in an annual concert series in Paris, productions in France as well as abroad, and in their ManiFeste event, an international festival featuring a multidisciplinary academy which was launched in 2012. Founded by Pierre Boulez, IRCAM is associated with the Centre Pompidou and supported by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication. Part of IRCAM, the mixed STMS research laboratory for the science and technology of music and sound also gets support from CNRS, Pierre and Marie Curie University and INRIA (team – project Mutant). IRCAM was involved in many productions staged at the Holland Festival. They created the sound design for Jonathan Harvey's Wagner Dream (2007) and also collaborated with Luca Francesconi on his opera Quartett (2013). In 2015, the institute helped to stage the performance of Pierre Boulez' Répons.



Olga Neuwirth
Matthias Pintscher
voice recordings, electronics sequences
Chiesa di San Lorenzo, Venetië:
Livia Rado, sopraan
Athos Castellan, trombone
IRCAM Studio:
Johan Leysen, verteller
Andrew Watts, countertenor
IRCAM computer music designer
Gilbert Nouno
computer design
Gilbert Nouno/IRCAM
acoustic, cognitive spaces research
Markus Noistering/IRCAM
IRCAM sound engineer
Sylvain Cadars
IRCAM scientific consultant and computer music designer
Markus Noisternig
IRCAM stage manager
David Raphaël
IRCAM sound assistant
Anaëlle Marsollier
music performed by
Ensemble intercontemporain
Ensemble intercontemporain
co-commissioned by
Donaueschinger Musiktage, Ensemble intercontemporain, IRCAM Centre Pompidou, Wien Modern, Festival de Lucerne