Friday, May 19, 2017

Maurice Ravel; Claude Debussy; Gabriel Fauré - String Quartets (Quatuor Ebène)


Composer:  Claude Debussy; Gabriel Fauré; Maurice Ravel
  1. Debussy - String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10: I. Animé et très décidé
  2. Debussy - String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10: II. Assez vif et bien rythmé
  3. Debussy - String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10: III. Andantino (Doucement expressif)
  4. Debussy - String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10: IV. Très modéré - Très animé
  5. Fauré - String Quartet in E minor, Op. 121: I. Allegro moderato
  6. Fauré - String Quartet in E minor, Op. 121: II. Andante
  7. Fauré - String Quartet in E minor, Op. 121: III. Allegro
  8. Ravel - String Quartet in F major: I. Allegro moderato - Très doux
  9. Ravel - String Quartet in F major: II. Assez vif - Très rythmé
  10. Ravel - String Quartet in F major: III. Très lent
  11. Ravel - String Quartet in F major: IV. Vif et agité

Quatuor Ebène
Pierre Colombet, violin
Gabriel Le Magadure, violin
Mathieu Herzog, viola
Raphaël Merlin, cello

Date: 2008
Label: Virgin Classics



2009 Gramophone Award Winner - Best Chamber Recording and Record of the Year!

Among the many breathtaking moments on the Ebène Quartet’s CD, there is one in particular that keeps calling one back. It occurs at around 1’14” into the Ravel’s slow movement, the second set, which enters like a bittersweet memory before a literal recollection of the Quartet’s opening motif. Other subtle details of interpretation include the chord at 2’03” that underpins a transformation of the first subject before the same chord leads directly into the second subject – and when it does, utterly changing in character, turning warmer, more openly inviting. The ebb and flow of the passage at 5’29” where the second subject rides above an arpeggiated accompaniment, music that looks both forwards to Debussy’s own La mer and backwards to Rimsky’sSheherazade (or so it seems). There’s a fluidity to the Ebène’s playing of both works that suits the music’s character, a mood of wistfulness too that the Ravel especially benefits from. This improvisatory approach is hardly surprising from an ensemble that is also celebrated for its jazz performances.

It was a brilliant idea to include Fauré’s late Quartet which, in a sense, provides the linchpin for all three works, the Ravel having been composed in Fauré’s class to mark the 10th anniversary of Debussy’s Quartet, and which is dedicated to Fauré. An extraordinary work by any standards, ethereal and other-worldly, with themes that seem constantly to be drawn skywards, Fauré’s Quartet responds well to the Ebène’s sensitised approach.

Anyone requiring this particular trio of works won’t be disappointed, which makes the various pairings of the Ravel and Debussy quartets on their own seem somewhat less enticing.

-- Gramophone

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Claude Debussy (22 August 1862 – 25 March 1918) was a French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel, he was one of the most prominent figures associated with Impressionist music, though he disliked the term when applied to his compositions. Debussy is widely regarded as one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. His innovative harmonies were influential to almost every major composer of the 20th century and also some modern music groups. Debussy's music is noted for its sensory content and frequent usage of nontraditional tonalities.


Gabriel Fauré (12 May 1845 – 4 November 1924) was a French composer, organist, pianist and teacher. He was one of the foremost French composers of his generation, and his musical style influenced many 20th-century composers. Among his best-known works are his Pavane, Requiem, nocturnes for piano and the songs "Après un rêve" and "Clair de lune". Fauré composed many of his most highly regarded works in his later years, in a more harmonically and melodically complex style. His music has been described as linking the end of Romanticism with 20th century modernism.


Maurice Ravel (7 March 1875 – 28 December 1937) was a French composer, pianist and conductor. He is often associated with impressionism along with Claude Debussy, although both composers rejected the term. In the 1920s and 1930s Ravel was internationally regarded as France's greatest living composer. Ravel was an exceptionally skilled orchestrator, as in his well known 1922 version of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. His best known works include Boléro (1928), Gaspard de la nuit (1908), Daphnis et Chloé (1912).


Quatuor Ébène is a French string quartet formed in 1999 and based in Boulogne-Billancourt, France. In 2009, the quartet was named "Newcomer of the Year" by BBC Music Magazine for its recording of the Ravel, Fauré, and Debussy string quartets. The same album won the group Recording of the Year at the 2009 Classic FM Gramophone Awards. The group is known for its versatility and performs a variety of genres, such as classical music, contemporary music, jazz, and crossover. Since 2015, Adrien Boisseau replaced Mathieu Herzog as violist.


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