About Superconductor

Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2016 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Superconductor Interview: The Eclectic Slide

The Ebène String Quartet plays Beethoven, Bartók and...the Beatles.
by Paul Pelkonen
The Ebène Quartet takes the traditional approach to chamber music...
One does not always associate chamber musicians with jazz, electronica or surf music. For the Ebène String Quartet, this music is not only influential, but enjoys a place next to Beethoven in their concert repertoire.

I met with three members of the Ebène Quartet on Friday morning: violinists Pierre Colombet and Gabriel Le Magadure and cellist Raphäel Merlin. They conduct interviews like they play, picking up threads of conversation and tossing ideas back and forth around the round table in Landmarc, a bistro on the third floor of the Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle.





The ensemble brings its fusion of jazz and chamber music to the Weill Recital Hall on Sunday, with a program pairing Beethoven's Op. 131 with a "Quartet Jam" featuring jazz tunes and rock numbers. The song selection is eclectic, with past Ebène performances including Bruce Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia,"  the Beatles' "Come Together", the Nat King Cole standard "Nature Boy", and Dick Dale's surf classic "Miserlou."

The Ebène Quartet isn't the first ensemble to play non-traditional repertory in a chamber music setting. The Kronos Quartet have long used a noisy version of Jimi Hendrix' "Purple Haze" as an encore. And the Finnish group Apocalyptica found a whole new audience for chamber ensembles, playing Metallica on chugging cellos.

"We are a classical string quartet," Mr. Colombet said. "We play classical music when we met 12 years ago we practiced so much you know how sometimes when you are in the middle of the ay you've practiced so much you become a little bit crazy. We were not listening to classical music. Gabriel was listening to electronic music. Raphäel was listening to jazz. And I like rock music."
...but sometimes turns their instruments and plucks to get different sounds.
In addition to eclectic repertory, the players take a radical approach to their instruments, combining techniques to create different sounds.

"We play like a guitar, we pluck, we keep playing with a bow," Mr. Colombet said.  "We try to use the string quartet to explore many possibilities." Mr. La Magadure picked up the thread. "We like contemporary music, but it's...the goal is to try to find the sound we want like the rock sound or the funk, the jazz."

"The Beethoven is such a difficult piece, technically speaking, but you don't feel it when you are playing it," Mr. Merlin said. "When you are performing the piece you cannot miss the fact that you are in the piece. You have to be there, you cannot be somewhere else."

"What's surprising with Beethoven, is that comparedto every other composer, his music is out of time," La Magadure added.

Chamber music and rock and roll may be an unlikely combination. But the chugging rhythms of electric guitars and basses translate well to violins, viola and cellos. The energy generated by the performance is also similar, with the differet members of the small band coming together to solve musical conundrums.


In addition to rock classics and jazz standards, the Ebène Quartet plays works by important 20th century masters, including quartets by Claude Debussy and Béla Bartók. Mr. La Magadure commented on the connection between the Hungaran composer and the late works of Beethoven. "Everyone is saying the first of Bartok is the 17th of Beethoven. There's no introduction between movements."

The Ebène String Quartet formed at the Paris Conservatoire. Each member hails from a different conener in France. "Paris is the only place to be if you want to play music," Mr. Colombet said. "We were in school and that is when you dream, you want to be a soloist, you want to be a violinist. Maybe you realize your technique is not for that, and you become nterested in many other things. The idea of playing in a string quartet became the goal for me. It was a way to express myself as a musician and to express music to each other."

"We are a classical string quartet. We play classical music when we met 12 years ago we practiced so much you know how sometimes when you are in the middle of the ay you've practiced so much you become a little bit crazy. We were not listening to classical music. Gabriel was listening to electronic music. Raphäel was listening to jazz. And I like rock music."

Watch the Ebène String Quartet play "Come Together."
Post a Comment

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Translate

Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

My photo

Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.