Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ebène Quartet

Thursday night I heard the Ebène Quartet in their 1st San Francisco performance. The quartet is youthful & charismatic, & they pulled me in right away with their pianissimo opening for the Mozart String Quartet No. 15. Their interpretation was lightly romantic & conversational, with individual players speaking out when appropriate. They make a warm, blended sound with a luscious texture. I felt like I should have been eating an eclair while listening to them.

The quartet plays delightedly from moment to moment, & I always felt drawn in. The 2nd movement of the Borodin String Quartet No. 2 had a fluttery, floaty start. The final movement had a lot of bite. Cellist Raphaël Merlin is an animated & flirtatious performer, often smiling & looking at this colleagues. There was something cute about his pizzicato & the way he made the famous slow movement melody sound like singing.

The Ravel String Quartet was picturesque & colorful. The musicians gave the pizzicato ending of the 2nd movement a humorous flourish. Violinists Pierre Colombet & Gabriel Le Magadure play closely together, with a yearning feeling, & sometimes rise out of their seats. Mr. Colombet in particular has a very smooth bow arm. Violist Mathieu Herzog is a grounded player & wears an amusingly gruff expression. He sometimes sounds like a cello.

The charmed Herbst Theatre audience gave the quartet a standing ovation. We applauded for quite a while before they came out for another bow & an encore. Mr. Merlin complained about their too-early flight out of SFO the next day & encouraged us to buy their jazz CD in the lobby afterward as early Christmas gifts. Their encore was a jazz version of the Beatle's "Come Together," with Mr. Herzog as a wry, dead-pan soloist, dangling his viola on the floor when not playing. Mr. Colombet contributed a flashy violin improvisation. I would have gladly stayed to hear the rest of their jazz program.

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

Mozart: String Quartet in D minor, K. 421
Borodin: String Quartet No. 2 in D Major
Ravel: String Quartet in F Major

The Beatles: "Come Together"

San Francisco Performances
Thursday, March 8, 8pm
Herbst Theatre


sfmike said...


Axel Feldheim said...

Does that I'm forgiven for attending a string quartet instead of opening night at American Mavericks?