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 September 5, 2011 | Warner Classics
Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice - Choc de Classica
Since its debut CD of Haydn quartets in 2006, Quatuor Ebène has continued to produce recordings of distinction and outstanding individuality. Between its first CD and this 2011 release of Mozart quartets, the group has demonstrated its versatility with recordings of Bartók, Brahms, the Debussy, Ravel, and Fauré quartets (which won a Gramophone Record of the Year Award), and a crossover album of jazz arrangements of popular songs. The Mozart album, which includes two quartets and a divertimento, offers further evidence of the quartet's considerable gifts. The most striking element in this performance is the variety of textures and colors the players draw from their instruments. Their broad timbral spectrum highlights and gives drama to the contours of the musical journey of each movement. In the opening movement of the Quartet in D minor, K. 421, for instance, the piercing, golden brilliance of the second phrase comes like a lightning bolt after the gauzy, spectral stillness of the first phrase; who needs an orchestra when four players can produce this kind of striking timbral and textural contrast? Another distinguishing mark of the quartet is the sensitivity of the phrasing. Even when the lower instruments are in a clearly accompanimental role, their lines are shaped with such deft nuance that they would hold a listener's rapt attention even without the featured solo of the first violinist. The members play with exceptional attentiveness to each other and to details of the composer's intentions. Each has gorgeous tone and their blend is seamless. The title of the album, Dissonances, should not frighten away traditionalists; it refers to the C major Quartet, K. 465, the introduction to whose first movement was harmonically daring at the time of its composition, but which is unlikely to sound surprising to 21st century ears. Virgin's sound is clean, open, and detailed. © TiVo