Within a decade of forming, the Quatuor Ébène transformed from a talented but youthful and virtually unknown string quartet to a highly respected ensemble with a prestigious recording deal and a touring schedule that included regular performances at major concert venues. Its dabbling into crossover repertory along the way has hardly hurt its rise, and its ability to vocalize on occasion has also added to its popularity and uniqueness. The Quatuor Ébène formed in 1999 when the players were students at the Boulogne-Billancourt Conservatory. The founding members of the ensemble were: Pierre Colombet and Gabriel Le Magadure, violins; Mathieu Herzog, viola; Raphaël Merlin, cello. In 2015, Adrien Boisseau took over the violist's chair from Herzog, who left to do more conducting. Boisseau was replaced by Marie Chilemme in 2017. The ensemble remained relatively little known until capturing first prize at the 2004 ARD International Competition in Munich. Groundbreaking as that was, the Quatuor Ébène added icing to the cake the following year with the 2005 Belmont Prize from the Forberg-Schneider Foundation. In 2006, the quartet performed as part of the BBC's "New Generation Artists" scheme. That same year, it made its first recording, a disc of three Haydn quartets, on the Mirare label. From 2007, the Quatuor Ébène has regularly toured Europe, the U.S., and Canada. In 2008, the ensemble made its first recording under a new association with Virgin Classics, a disc of the quartets by Debussy, Fauré, and Ravel that would go on to receive the 2009 Gramophone award for Record of the Year. It is the Quatuor Ébène's classical side that has earned it its greatest successes, especially in performances of works by Schubert, Brahms, Borodin, Fauré, Debussy, Ravel, Prokofiev, Bartók, and scores of others, but the crossover fare it performs has drawn much acclaim for its imagination and craftsmanship. The crossover music performed is typically in arrangements made by the Quatuor Ébène players, arrangements frequently sourced in film music. The group's take on the score from Pulp Fiction and Philadelphia, are two examples of more popular crossover hits. Quatuor Ébène's first all-crossover album was issued by Virgin Classics in 2010, a disc that featured arrangements of such numbers as Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Streets of Philadelphia, with additional artists Natalie Dessay, Richard Héry, and others. In 2020, Quatuor Ébène released a complete set of Beethoven's string quartets, titled Beethoven Around the World, launching its 21-country tour of the same name to celebrate Beethoven's 250th birthday.
© Robert Cummings /TiVo
© Robert Cummings /TiVo
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Classical - Released April 8, 2016 | Erato - Warner Classics
Recording Franz Schubert's String Quintet in C major, D. 956, is a major achievement for most string players, and Quatuor Ebène's performance with cellist Gautier Capuçon on Erato is a high point in their discography. Playing with great transparency and alertness, the quintet delivers a vital performance that captures the rarefied, almost mystical quality of Schubert's late masterpiece while maintaining a sense of urgency and, at times, explosive energy. This is to be expected of a world-class string quartet, and it's probably more than enough effort for a single CD. Yet the program continues with a set of five of Schubert's lieder, sung by baritone Matthias Goerne and accompanied by Quatuor Ebène and double bassist Laurène Durantel, in arrangements by Raphaël Merlin. These versions for voice and strings were conceived in the spirit of the Schubertiades, on the idea that string players likely were in attendance and eager to join Schubert in impromptu music-making. While these transcriptions are speculative, they are certainly enjoyable for their beautiful tone and subdued feeling, and Goerne sings with warmth and expressiveness to match the subtle moods of the arrangements. © TiVo