"A string quartet that can easily morph into a jazz band," wrote the New York Times after a 2009 performance by the Quatuor Ebène. The ensemble opened with Debussy and Haydn and then improvised on a film music theme—with equal enthusiasm and passion.
What began in 1999 as a distraction in the conservatory practice rooms for the four young French musicians has become a trademark of the Quatuor Ebène, and has generated lasting reverberations in the music scene. The four breathe new life into chamber music through their consistently direct, open-minded perspective on the works. Regardless of the genre, they approach the music with humility and respect. They change styles with gusto, and yet remain themselves: with all the passion that they experience for each piece, and which they bring to the stage and to their audiences directly and authentically.
There is no single word that describes their style: they’ve created their own. Their traditional repertoire does not suffer from their engagement with other genres; rather, their free association with diverse styles brings a productive excitement to their music. From the beginning, the complexity of their oeuvre has been greeted enthusiastically by audiences and critics.
After studies with the Quatuor Ysaÿe in Paris and with Gábor Takács, Eberhard Feltz and György Kurtág, the quartet had an unprecedented victory at the ARD Music Competition 2004. This marked the beginning of their rise, which has culminated in numerous prizes and awards.
The Quatuor Ebène’s concerts are marked by a special élan. With their charismatic playing, their fresh approach to tradition and their open engagement with new forms, the musicians have been successful in reaching a wide audience of young listeners; they communicate their knowledge in regular master classes at the Conservatoire Paris and at the Colburn School in Los Angeles.
In 2005, the ensemble won the Belmont Prize of the Forberg-Schneider Foundation. Since then, the Foundation has worked closely with the musicians, making it possible for them to play priceless old Italian instruments from private collections.
The Quatuor Ebène’s debut CD, featuring works by Haydn, was praised unanimously by critics. Further recordings of music by Bartók, Debussy and Fauré have won numerous awards, including the Gramophone Award, the ECHO Klassik and the Midern Classic Award. Their 2010 album Fiction and the accompanying DVD, a live recording of jazz arrangements, has only solidified their unique position in the chamber music scene. In 2013, the ensemble put out an acclaimed CD, Felix and Fanny, with works by Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel and Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, which won a BBC Music Magazine Award. Their second crossover CD Brazil, a collaboration with Stacey Kent, appeared early in 2014.
Highlights of the 2014/2015 season include concerts in the Wigmore Hall in London, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées Paris, Munich’s Herkulessaal, and Carnegie Hall in New York, alongside numerous festival concerts in Prague and Bremen, among others.
The fundamental classical repertoire for string quartet will remain a cornerstone: in 2015, the Quatuor Ebène will focus on Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartets Op. 131 and Op. 132.
Quatuor Ebène will be the Prize Winner in Residence at the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival in the Summer of 2015.