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 November 10, 2014 | Erato - Warner Classics
The career of pianist and chamber music specialist Menahem Pressler dates back to the World War II era. He was a member of the Beaux Arts Trio for its entire existence from 1955 to 2008, and apparently he wasn't ready to retire along with the rest of the group. This album was recorded live at the Salle Pleyel in Paris on audio and video in November 2013, just before Pressler's 90th birthday, and it's not only extraordinary for a 90-year-old, it's exciting in absolute terms. The audio CD presents two cornerstones of the Romantic chamber repertory, the Piano Quintet in A major, Op. 81, of Dvorák, and the Piano Quintet in A major, D. 667 ("Trout"), of Schubert. Both performances, passionate and hell-for-leather, represent a meeting of the minds between Pressler and the Quatuor Ebène, but what's notable is how often Pressler seems to be directing the proceedings. Sample the slow movement of the Schubert (track 7), where the forward impetus clearly is coming from Pressler. An included DVD covers the same music, some Schubert songs with tenor Christoph Prégardien and some encores presenting the quartet and Pressler solo, plus an affectionate tribute from the audience at the end. There are a few glitches, but not more than other pianists make in true live recordings, and overall it's hard to escape the impression that this is the kind of chamber performance just not heard anymore. The only real complaint is the respiratory distress of what seems an unusually large portion of the audience. © TiVo