Pierre Colombet, violin
Gabriel Le Magadure, violin
Mathieu Herzog, viola
Raphaël Merlin, cello
Mesmerized, Mr. Kozinn describes how the four musicians first performed Haydn and Debussy before – following the intermission – performing their own arrangement of the music from the movie Pulp Fiction, improvising to Chick Corea’s Spain, and finally closing with an encore in which the quartet unveils the vocal talents of an excellent a capella quartet.
There is no doubt: These four French musicians have class and are perhaps the most creative ensemble on the international chamber music scene today. No other quartet moves with such ease and enthusiasm between different styles and, even if the foursome only rarely presents live programs that combine classical music and Jazz, “The other Ebène” page on the quartet’s website offers visitors several music clips of their more contemporary arrangements, an integral part of the ensemble’s repertoire.
Rather unusual in today’s world of chamber music, the Quatuor Ebène’s stylistic acrobatics may at first meet defiant ears, due in part to the general misuse of the term "crossover", which so often serves to cover mediocrity and redundancy. And yet, with the Ebènes, whenever they create a new work, it is always with taste and integrity.
Nevertheless, the quartet’s traditional repertoire does not suffer in any way from its love of Jazz. On the contrary, it would seem that the Ebènes’ tendency to delve into the “other side” of music inspires their work in untangling and giving new life to classical works. During its performance at the Hitzacker summer festival in 2009 for example, the quartet was heard playing a quartet by Haydn with such spontaneity, it gave the impression that this music, over 200 years old, was somehow just composed.
There is, in French ensemble music today, a certain élan, which suits modern chamber music particularly well. This new generation of French musicians, their hearts full of passion for tradition, have been captivating audiences with great success, converting listeners into avid fans of the chamber music genre. Their performance is so convincing, their stage presence so charismatic, that one cannot escape the spellbinding magic of these masterpieces.
The Quatuor Ebène has studied extensively with the Ysaye Quartet in Paris as well as with the eminent Gábor Takács, Eberhard Feltz et György Kurtág. Since its dramatic 2004 triumph at the prestigious ARD international competition in Munich, where the quartet was also awarded five additional special prizes, the Ebènes have gone on to win the Forberg-Schneider Foundation’s Belmont Prize in 2005. It has since remained close to the foundation, which very generously arranged to have the quartet outfitted with several unique Italian instruments, on loan to the quartet members from private owners.
From “promising young ensemble”, the Quatuor Ebène has grown to become one of today’s foremost quartets on the international scene. Recently the foursome was specially selected to take part in the BBC’s esteemed “New Generation Artists” scheme, closely supported by the Borletti-Buitoni Foundation, which sponsored their first, critically acclaimed live recording of works by Haydn as well as a second CD entirely devoted to works of Bartók.
During the 2007-2008 season, the quartet was heard throughout Europe, Asia and the United States in some of the most prestigious concert halls including Vienna’s Musikverein, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Berlin’s Philarmonic and New York’s Carnegie Hall. In 2009 the Ebènes were also featured as part of Wigmore Hall’s Haydn Cycle in London, alongside the Hagen, Emerson and Arcanto quartets.
2009 also marked the beginning of an especially fruitful collaboration with the Virgin Classics label. The quartet’s Debussy, Ravel and Fauré recording was recently awarded “Recording of the Year” by the prestigious magazine Gramophone as well as “Chamber Music Record of the Year” by ECHO-classik. The Ebènes’ latest recording of works by Brahms, featuring pianist Akiko Yamamoto, demonstrates once again, the quartet’s ease in a range of styles.
A Jazz and World Music album, entitled Fiction, is scheduled for release in 2010. Who knows, perhaps the Ebènes may hit all the top charts? With this ensemble, it’s clear that anything is possible.
Ébène Quartet on medici.tv
July 29, 2011, 9 a.m.