The French Quatuor Ébène string quartet plays Ludwig van Beethoven's String Quartet No.9 in C major, Op.59 No.3. Recorded at Schubertiade 2018, Schwarzenberg, Austria, Angelika Kauffmann Saal, on August 25, 2018.
Beethoven's second set of quartets, Opus 59, inhabit a very different universe from that of his first set, Opus 18. Although only six years had passed since the publication of the Opus 18 quartets, Beethoven's style changed immensely. The Opus 59 quartets were composed in the wake of the "Eroica" Symphony, and the vastness of the individual movements, the symphonic, orchestral character of the string writing and the stretched formal boundaries led some critics to dub the first of the set an "Eroica" for string quartet.
The Bureau des Arts et d'Industrie in Vienna published the three "Rasumovsky" quartets in 1808, with a dedication to the Russian Ambassador in Vienna, Count Andreas Kirillovich Rasumovsky (1752-1836), who had commissioned them. The Russian Ambassador was one of Beethoven's principal supporters until a fire destroyed much of his wealth in December 1814. More important to Beethoven than his wealth was Rasumovsky's maintenance of a permanent string quartet from 1808 to 1816, led by Ignaz Schuppanzigh (1776-1830), in which Rasumovsky occasionally played second violin. Schuppanzigh was involved in the premières of numerous works by Beethoven, including the quartets.
Beethoven began drafting the score of the first of the Opus 59 quartets on May 26, 1806, although there is evidence that he started to sketch them in the fall of 1804; by November 1806, all three were complete. Because Rasumovsky was to have exclusive rights to the pieces for a year, their publication was delayed until January 1808. As a tribute to Rasumovsky's heritage, Beethoven planned to use Russian folk themes in each of the three quartets, but did so only in the finale of the first and the slow movement of the second. All three are in four movements, the third augmented by a slow introduction to the first movement.
The C major quartet opens with a strange introduction – its first harmony is a diminished chord built on F sharp. After a suspenseful decrescendo, the chord moves to the dominant of B flat. This does not lead where we expect it, and the ensuing measures seem directionless until we hear the dominant of C major. However, the tonic is not confirmed until after the exposition has begun. In the development, Beethoven takes the harmony as far afield as the Neapolitan, D flat, creating a similar relationship to the one found in the first movement of the E minor quartet. Although the sonata-form second movement is not marked Thème russe, its melancholy melody does sound eastern European in origin, and the pizzicato playing on the cello lends the movement a folk-music quality. The third movement is a minuet, Beethoven's first since the Piano Sonata, Op.31 No.3, of 1802. The Trio's tonality of F major looks back both to the key of the first quartet and to that harmony's presence in the second. Beethoven directs that the coda is to move without break into the finale. The blistering finale, in 2/2 meter, is one of Beethoven's most important fugal movements. Until the fourth voice enters (the first violin), it seems that Beethoven intends to compose an actual fugue. Beethoven embarks on a wide exploration of harmonies in this combination of sonata-form and fugue.
Source: John Palmer (allmusic.com)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
♪ String Quartet No.9 in C major, Op.59 No.3 (1806)
i. Andante con moto – Allegro vivace
ii.Andante con moto quasi allegretto
iv. Allegro molto
Pierre Colombet, violin
Gabriel Le Magadure, violin
Marie Chilemme, viola
Raphaël Merlin, cello
Schubertiade 2018, Schwarzenberg, Austria, Angelika Kauffmann Saal, August 25, 2018
"A string quartet that can easily morph into a jazz band", wrote the New York Times after a 2009 performance by the Quatuor Ébène. The ensemble opened with Debussy and Haydn and then improvised on a film music theme – with exactly the same enthusiasm and passion.
What began in 1999 as a distraction in the university's practice rooms for the four young French musicians has become a trademark of the Quatuor Ébène, 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 Ébène's concerts are marked by a special elan. 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 Supérieur Paris.
The quartet was one of the award winners of the Borletti-Buitoni Trust in 2007 and received support from the BBT between 2007 and 2017. In 2005, the ensemble won the Belmont Prize of the Forberg-Schneider Foundation. Since then, the Foundation has worked closely with the musicians, who are performing on instruments chosen with and loaned by Gabriele Forberg-Schneider since 2009.
Pierre Colombet: Violin by Francesco Rugeri, Cremona (ca.1680), Bow by Charles Tourte (Paris, 19th century)
Gabriel Le Magadure: Violin with a Guarneri label (mid 18th century), Bow by Dominique Pecatte (ca.1845)
Marie Chilemme: Viola by Marcellus Hollmayr, Füssen (1625), prior possession of Mathieu Herzog
Raphaël Merlin: Violoncello by Andrea Guarneri, Cremona (1666-1680)
The Quatuor Ébène's CDs, featuring recordings of music by Haydn, Bartók, Debussy, Fauré, Mozart and the Mendelssohn siblings have won numerous awards, including the Gramophone Award, the ECHO Klassik, the BBC Music Magazine Award and the Midern Classic Award. Their 2010 album "Fiction" with jazz arrangements, has only solidified their unique position in the chamber music scene, as well as their 2014 crossover CD "Brazil", a collaboration with Stacey Kent, and their recent recording with Michel Portal, "Eternal Stories" (May 2017). In fall 2014, Erato released "A 90th Birthday Celebration", a live recording (on CD and DVD) of Menahem Presslers birthday celebration concert with the Quatour Ébène in Paris. In 2015-2016 the musicians focussed on the genre of the "Lied". They collaborated with Philippe Jaroussky for the CD "Green (Mélodies françaises)" which won the BBC Music Magazine Award 2016 and published a Schubert CD. On the one hand, it includes Lieder, recorded with Mathias Goerne (arranged for string quartett, baritone and bass by Raphël Merlin) and on the other hand, the string quintett, recorded with Gautier Capuçon.
The fundamental classical repertoire for string quartet will remain a cornerstone: this season, the Quatuor Ebène will focus on Ludwig van Beethoven's String Quartets. The quartet will indeed present the complete Beethoven cycle in 2020 for their 20th anniversary as well as for 250th jubilee of the composer.
From April 2019 through January 2020 the Quatuor Ebène will go on a world tour with the theme "Beethoven Live Around the World" with concerts in North America, South America, Africa, India, Australia & New Zealand, Asia and Europe. The Quartet will guest in concert halls including the Perelman Theater Philhadelphia, Sala São Paulo, Melbourne Recital Centre, and the Konzerthaus Vienna.
Frankfurt Music Prize 2019 goes to Quatuor Ébène