The Ensemble InterContemporain (EIC) is a French chamber orchestra, based in Paris at the Cité de la musique and IRCAM, which specialises in contemporary classical music. The EIC has a comparatively large roster of permanent, salaried musicians, 31 as of 2012, all of whom are nominally 'soloists', including three full-time pianists, and three percussionists. Smaller, unconducted, groups drawn from the EIC are billed as 'Les Solistes de l'Ensemble Intercontemporain'. The EIC, through its association with IRCAM, is also unusual in having an annual open call for scores from composers of any age or nationality.
Pierre Boulez founded the EIC in 1976 in association with the French culture minister Michel Guy and the co-founder of the London Sinfonietta, Nicholas Snowman, conceiving it as a group of soloists who could play orchestral literature or literature for any combination of instruments. The idea was for the ensemble to be more flexible than a traditional symphony orchestra, allowing composers to write for a group of instruments of their own choice. Many works that might have been conceived for orchestra are now being written with this instrumentation in mind. For example, Tristan Murail's Désintégrations, Helmut Lachenmann's Zwei Gefühle: Musik mit Leonardo, and Pierre Boulez's Répons, are all pieces that exist in the area between orchestral and chamber music.
The EIC is particularly noted for its performances of music by composers of the European modernist tradition. Its core repertoire encompasses "classic" twentieth-century compositions such as those by composers of the Second Viennese School, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Boulez, and György Ligeti, but has also collaborated with musicians from other disciplines, notably Frank Zappa. The EIC also specialises in Spectralist music, frequently performing works by Gérard Grisey, Tristan Murail, Hugues Dufourt and others. There is also a strong emphasis on commissioning new works; a large percentage of each season is given to world premieres.
The EIC was originally intended to be resident in IRCAM, but the need for a larger performance venue prompted a move to the Cité de la musique, a concert hall in the nineteenth arrondissement of Paris. The ensemble still performs and records at IRCAM, however. The EIC also has an extensive touring schedule, comparable to that of a symphony orchestra.
With the EIC, Boulez had the title of president. In 1979, Peter Eötvös became the first conductor with the title of music director of the EIC, appointed by Boulez. Other music directors have included David Robertson (1992–2000) and Jonathan Nott (2000–2003). Nott also served as the EIC's principal guest conductor from 2003 to 2005. The current music director of the EIC is Susanna Mälkki, since 2006. She is scheduled to conclude her EIC tenure after the 2012-2013 season. In June 2012, the EIC announced the appointment of Matthias Pintscher as its next Music Director, beginning in the 2013-2014 season, for an initial period of three years.
The EIC has recorded for a number of labels, including Deutsche Grammophon (music of Ligeti, Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg, Boulez and Unsuk Chin), and KAIROS (music of Alberto Posadas and Matthias Pintscher), Luca Francesconi, Philippe Manoury and Michael Jarrell. Recordings by the EIC have received multiple awards, including the Gramophone Award and the Diapason d'Or.
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