Ensemble InterContemporain

Ensemble intercontemporain is a Paris-based, world-renowned[1] ensemble of 31 full-time musicians dedicated to performing and promoting contemporary chamber music. It was founded by Pierre Boulez in 1972 for this purpose, the first permanent organization of its type in the world. Since then the Ensemble has toured extensively both in France and abroad, appearing especially at international festivals. Beyond performing they also have teaching and other outreach activities to support young musicians, composers and conductors.

Ensemble intercontemporain
Chamber orchestra
Official logo
Founded1976 (1976)
LocationParis, France
Concert hallCité de la musique
Principal conductorMatthias Pintscher

Organization and purpose

The Ensemble consists of thirty one full-time soloists in various instruments, who are dedicated to the performance and promotion of contemporary chamber music written in the 20th and 21st centuries.[2][3] They exist to fill a need for musicians who can work with new playing techniques and composition styles prevalent in this kind of music.[4] The Ensemble is resident at the Philharmonie de Paris, under artistic director Matthias Pintscher[2] and assistant director Julien Leroy,[5] with their activities financed by the French Ministry of Culture and the city of Paris.[6]

They perform about thirty times a year in their home city,[7] and tour extensively both in France and abroad, especially at international festivals.[6] These concerts regularly include the premieres of new compositions, often commissioned by the Ensemble itself, which gives preference to young composers who have not yet had their work performed by the organization.[3][7] The Ensemble has over 2,000 contemporary works in their repertoire, much of which has been recorded and includes composers such as Elliott Carter, Luigi Dallapiccola, Luciano Berio, along with the complete works of Boulez, György Ligeti, György Kurtág, Alejandro Romero, George Benjamin, Roberto Carnevale and Ivan Fedele.[5][6]

Their support for composers goes beyond playing their work in public and includes collaborating with composers both in the creation and interpretation processes. One reason for this is that the techniques and composition style of contemporary music is significantly different from classical music, and composer notation systems vary, especially with the indications of these new techniques.[3][7]

The Ensemble also supports young musicians which includes workshops at schools, master classes and more for conservatory students, professional and amateur musicians and training for conductors and composers. Since 2004 individual members have been tutoring young instrumentalists, conductors and composers in contemporary music as part of the Lucerne Festival Academy (Lucerne Festival). In addition, they collaborate with other kinds of artists from the fields of dance, theater, video and visual arts.[3] The organization collaborates regularly with the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (Institute of Acoustic Music Research and Coordination) which sponsors research and concerts to showcase technological innovations in composition.[3][7]


The Ensemble intercontemporain was founded in 1976 by composer and conductor Pierre Boulez, with the support of French Minister of Cultura Michel Guy and the collaboration of Nicholas Snowman.[3][8] It is the first permanent contemporary music ensemble, founded to provide performers for contemporary chamber music.[1][4]

The idea for the Ensemble came from Boulez’s experiences as part of the historical avant garde of Darmstadt, Germany in the 1950s, contemporary of Stockhausen, Berio, Ligeti and Nono. He began his career as a composer in contemporary music, moving onto conducting orchestras such as New York Philharmonic (1971–1978) and the BBC Symphony Orchestra (1971–1975). He states that his first love is composition and noted the lack of venues to premiere and promote new music, so he created the Ensemble for playing and producing music, along with the Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique for academic work into the same field.[4] The Ensemble was based at the Cité de la Musique in Paris from 1995 until 2015, when it moved to the Philharmonie de Paris.[1][3] Boulez held the position of president,[9] with Péter Eötvös becoming the first musical director, appointed by Boulez in 1979.[10] It has had several notable music directors including American David Robertson (1992–2000), Jonathan Nott (2000–2003), Finnish Susanna Mälkki (2006–2013) and the current director German Matthias Pintscher (September 2013– ).[1][7][11][12] Their model of organization and musical development has been followed by many groups since then.[11]

The Ensemble has toured extensively to South America, Russia, Canada, the United States, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and most major cities of Europe.[7] Recent performances include the National Autonomous University of Mexico and the Palacio de Bellas Artes (2007),[6] Buenos Aires in 2012,[13] the Festival Internacional Cervantino in 2014,[5][14] and in honor of Pierre Boulez’s 90th birthday, a concert at the Barbican Center in London.[8][15]

The EIC has recorded for a number of labels, including Deutsche Grammophon (music of Ligeti, Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg, Boulez[16] and Unsuk Chin[17]), and KAIROS (music of Alberto Posadas and Matthias Pintscher[18]), Luca Francesconi, Philippe Manoury and Michael Jarrell. Recordings by the EIC have received multiple awards, including the Gramophone Award and the Diapason d'Or

Commissions by the Ensemble intercontemporain


  1. "Ensemble Intercontemporain - Choir Accentus / Axe 21". Venice: Biennale Musica 2015 (La Biennale di Venezia). Archived from the original on May 18, 2015. Retrieved May 13, 2015.
  2. "The Ensemble intercontemporain". Archived from the original on February 16, 2016. Retrieved May 13, 2015.
  3. "Ensemble Intercontemporain". France: Philharmonie de Paris. Retrieved May 13, 2015.
  4. "Boulez wins the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award for the influence of his compositions and his engagement with musical thought and transmission: - Boulez has combined composition at the very highest level with the direction of leading orchestras, an intense teaching effort, and the creation of front-line centers for the investigation and transmission of contemporary music, like IRCAM, or Ensemble InterContemporain". PR Newswire. New York. February 12, 2013.
  5. "El Ensemble Intercontemporain se presentará el jueves 23 de octubre en el Palacio de Bellas Artes 21" (Press release). Mexico: Palacio de Bellas Artes (CONACULTA). October 21, 2014. Archived from the original on May 18, 2015. Retrieved May 13, 2015.
  6. "Llega a México el Ensemble Intercontemporain". NOTIMEX. Mexico City. November 17, 2007.
  7. Nina Perlove (Winter 1998). "Transmission, Interpretation, Collaboration - A Performer's Perspective on the Language of Contemporary Music: An Interview with Sophie Cherrier". Perspectives of New Music. 31 (1): 43–58.
  8. George Hall (April 29, 2015). "Ensemble Intercontemporain/Pintscher review – bold and brilliant Boulez". The Guardian. London. Retrieved May 13, 2015.
  9. Schwartz, K. Robert (1991-02-17). "A Mellowed Polemicist Retains His Edge". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-29.
  10. Clements, Andrew (2003-02-17). "BBCSO/Eötvös (Barbican, London)". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-03-29.
  11. Daniel J. Wakin (June 22, 2012). "Ensemble Intercontemporain Names Music Director". New York Times. Art Beat. Retrieved May 13, 2015.
  12. "Matthias Pintscher est nommé Directeur musical de l'Ensemble intercontemporain" / "Matthias Pintscher appointed Music Director of the Ensemble intercontemporain" (Press Release). Ensemble InterContemporain, 22 June 2012.
  13. "Ensemble Intercontemporain". La Nación. Buenos Aires. July 1, 2012.
  14. "[#Cervantino909] Ensemble Intercontemporain". Mexico City: Ibero 900 (Universidad Iberoamericana). October 22, 2014. Retrieved May 13, 2015.
  15. Hannah Nepil (April 29, 2015). "Boulez at 90: Ensemble Intercontemporain, Barbican, London — review". Financial Times. London. Retrieved May 13, 2015.
  16. Clements, Andrew (2005-03-04). "Boulez: Le Marteau Sans Maître; Dérive 1 & 2, Summers/ Ensemble InterContemporain/ Boulez". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-03-29.
  17. Clements, Andrew (2005-03-25). "Unsuk Chin: Akrostichon-Wortspiel; Fantaisie Mecanique; Xi; Double Concerto, Komsi/ Favre/ Vassilakis/ Ensemble InterContemporain/ Ono/ Davin/ Robertson/ Asbury". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-03-29.
  18. Clements, Andrew (2008-01-18). "Pintscher: En Sourdine; Tenebrae; Reflections on Narcissus, Zimmermann/ Desjardins/ Mørk/ Ensemble Intercontemporain/ NDR Symphony Orch/ Pintscher". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-03-29.
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