28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 23 October 2008
This has been eagerly awaited after hearing the Ebene perform the Debussy and the Ravel live at this summer's Salzburg Festival. They are a young group of musicians who also appear on the European jazz scene. This brings to their playing a buzz which may be linked to their ability to improvise freely. However, when playing these pieces there is a discipline evident in their interpretation as well. Hear also their interpretation of the first three Barok Quartets and sublime live recordings of Haydn.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
I agree entirely with DHL's review of this disc. Quatuor Ébène are a fantastic quartet, and their debut disc of Haydn (String Quartets Op. 64 No. 5 'the Lark' (Quatuor Ebene)) remains a firm favourite of mine. This disc is just as good, showing that they have as much empathy with Ravel, Debussy and Fauré as Haydn and their superb technique, faultless intonation and brilliant mutual understanding are well in evidence here.
Radio 3's Building A Library reviewer recently chose this recording of the Fauré quartet as the best available, in the face of phenomenal competition form the world's best quartets of the last 80 years, which probably says a lot more than I can about the quality of this disc. It's fabulous and very warmly recommended.
(Do try their Haydn disc, too. If you already like Haydn's string quartets it will be a terrific addition to your collection, and if you're looking for a place to start on them you couldn't do better - it's absolutely terrific.)
Update - 3rd October 2009: This disc has just won "Recording of the Year" at the 2009 Gramophone Awards - just about the most prestigious award available anywhere. It's a deserved honour for a terrific recording by a very fine quartet. I'm delighted!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This disc, recorded with precision and with good internal balance in 2008, by bringing together three loosely related works makes an ideal and generous coupling. The link between the three works is that in 1903, Faure's class, which included Ravel, decided to mark the tenth anniversary of Debussy's quartet by writing a collaborative work. In the event the composition turned out to be Ravel's quartet which showed in its similarities of form, Ravel's admiration of the earlier quartet by Debussy. The musical language was, of course quite different and earned Debussy's encouragement not to change anything about the work upon its completion.
All three quartets are the only string quartets written by each of these composers. That of Faure was written at the end of his life and was not completed until 1924. As such it was the last of the three works to be written and Faure died before hearing it performed. The quartets by both Debussy and Ravel were written when the two men were still young and share a young man's energy and that energy is clearly in evidence in these immaculately played performances. The Debussy quartet dates from 1893 and the Ravel from 1903. Both of these latter two share similarities of form with a pizzicato second movement being the most distinctive similarity and it is this movement that is a good indicator of the Ebene's style of playing these three works.
The Ebene bring a remarkably clear-cut approach to these three works. All of this can be heard with ease in these two pizzicato movements. Every detail is clearly exposed for our attention. The pizzicati themselves are played with a striking precision, unanimity and power. Every hairpin accent is observed and underlined. So too with every change in tempi or dynamics. This is technically very accurate and, in its way, very subtle playing. At the same time there is not the emotional warmth of many of the established interpretations heard from the last few decades. The recording, in its very clear and precise way, makes the ideal partner to these performances. In these ways this disc is very much a product of its time and, as such, is a very fine example of modern playing at its impressive best.
This therefore, is playing very much to admire and it certainly has received numerous golden opinions from critics to whom I would add my own. However, I am not so sure that this is a performance that I will grow to love, and here is the difference between admiration and love. The latter requires an emotional response and the former is a cooler assessment. There are several versions of these works in my collection that I have grown to love over the years, often recorded within a complementary warmer acoustic, and so far the Ebene Quartet performances have not joined them in that way. This may yet occur. My immediate comparisons have been made with discs made by the Italian, Melos, Hagen and Belcea Quartets.
I would suggest that this disc deserves the considerable praise that has been lavished upon it. As such it certainly deserves to be seriously considered by anyone tempted by the program. I am not so sure that it is the definitive version that has been suggested however as there is room for more emotionally generous views too, and by that I do not wish to imply emotion at the expense of accuracy. As the heading to this review states, this is a very clear, clean and modern set with every detail exposed to be heard and appreciated and as such it certainly succeeds in every detail.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 6 January 2010
Having read the rave reviews, and though possessing a very serviceable White Label/Bartok Quartet version of the Debussy/Ravel/Dvorak quartets, I gave in to the excitement and purchased the Ebene's recording - and the Faure instead of the Dvorak was a nice touch.
On first listening, and thereafter, I detected scattered extra-musical 'boomy thumping', though largely in the Ravel & Debussy quartets. In addition there were rather too noticeable (though fortunately, very occasional) sharp intakes of breath (and the Ebenes really are too young for this affectation). However, it is the 'thumping' that worries me. I can hardly believe that it is a pressing fault, but is perhaps the result of over-close miking and poor-ish editing. However, after a time it becomes aurally uncomfortable and thereby interferes markedly with the enjoyment of an otherwise superlative performance/recording.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
You might not think you need yet another recording of the Debussy and Ravel quartets, but this is played with such feeling, energy and precision that you do, honest... I have never heard the second movement of the Debussy played with such drive, swing and snappy pizzicato ; makes the Melos Quartet version sound staid and over-polite by comparison. The unusually fine recording quality here helps a great deal, too. The recording venue, a converted granary, is clearly a magnificent setting ; there is a natural warmth and bloom to the sound which favours the viola in particular, but the overall feel and sound is indeed exceptional.
The Belcea Qt recorded the Ravel and Debussy (alongside Dutilleux, Ainsi la nuit) a few years ago now, but these Ebène versions are more cohesive, and have more drive and just as much lyricism to them. However, (having heard them live last year) I am certain that the Belceas would now be at least as good. Putting the Ravel and Debussy alongside the Dutilleux was a natural move, and it worked very well. Here, though, it's the Fauré quartet, an equally natural choice, more similar to the Ravel and Debussy in tone and in harmonic language, and presented with flawless musicianship, again with perfect natural sound. The Fauré is less well-known and less immediate in its appeal than the other two, but give it five minutes with quality headphones, and you will be drawn in. A gem.
Footnote and PS added after another week of listening, and after returning to the Belcea versions ; no, in fact the Belcea versions are every bit as good, I just hadn't played them loudly enough. I was over-dazzled initially by the glorious sound of the Ebene recordings. Neither one is full-price, so you could even go for both.
on 1 September 2010
These four young men are absolutely something again. Their playing is of the highest quality as is the recording. The music is quite delightful. If you venture onto the EMI website you can catch them talking about their work and recording. They certainly have a long way to go if they continue to make music as good as this. Well recommended.
on 10 April 2013
I have had several great recordings of these wonderful works, including my favourite, by the Melos Ensemble. So I put off buying this one for some time! However, having finally succumbed I can only say that this is an outstanding CD in every way and I find myself reaching for more often than hitherto.
on 13 August 2013
A classy performance recorded in a spacious acoustic with plenty of detail. Tight, expressive and comparable to the famous Italian Qt performances, except, as good as that recording is, the sound on this one is even better.
on 13 March 2014
Despite the outdated -- quite frankly ridiculous -- boy band attitude they opt for in their photos, these gents make beautiful music together. Disc has a wonderfully warm and balanced acoustic.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 16 January 2012
Quator Ebene has made the best recording of Ravel's string quartet I ever heard. Sensible, passionate. The recording sound is excellent, may be a little direct but that is a minor detail. Very worthwile.