We need inspiration from the audience

Although retired since 2014, I still relish opportunities to teach, write, and share opinions.
The Ebene String Quartet appeared onstage at Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, Princeton University on Thursday, March 31, 2022. 
 
The Ebene String Quartet (Quatuor Ebene) is a French quartet founded in this century by four young musicians. With several recordings to date, and a full touring schedule, these musicians also find time to teach. So it is a special pleasure to hear them live and in our own backyard. Pierre Colombet, violin, Gabriel Le Magadure, violin, Marie Chilemme, viola, and Raphael Merlin, cello are the quartet. Their instruments are the finest antique instruments available, and they use them superbly to create a sound vista which is incomparable. Their instruments are courtesy of several societies and a donor. For instance, a 1717 Stradivari “Piatti,” a Guarnerius Del Gesu, another Stradivari, the “Gibson,” a 1736 Matteo Gofriller viola, and two cellos, a Carlo Tononi, 1720, with a Guarneri 1666/1680 from Cremona. 
 
“We need inspiration from the audience” is a quote from cellist Raphael Merlin, reinforcing the fact that a live, breathing audience is totally different from a rehearsal hall or a recording studio. How true. You would be hard put to find such beautiful playing by anyone in the world today, and the Ebene does it handily. These four play like blazing comets, with their instruments imparting fiery passions arousing their Princeton audiences to sensuous reveries. Unlike many musicians, these four genii play not upon guts sawed over roughly, but by magi offering endless aural delights, endless raptures, and endless honeyed tone.
 
The night’s program included Mozart’s (1756-1791) String Quartet No.14 in G Major, K.387 (1782), Dmitri Shostakovich’s (1906-1975) String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 110 (1960), and Brahms’ (1833-1897) String Quartet No. 3 in B-flat Major, Op.67 (1875). In the words of Lucy Caplan writing in the program notes, the program “ranges from the sparkling elegance of Mozart to the impassioned despair of Shostakovich to the cerebral merriment of Brahms.” Truly and concisely stated.
 
The Ebene plays a Mozart that is barely bridled, yet by turns extraordinarily sensitive and fierce when called for. No ear in the audience ever heard such astonishing, magical Shostakovich. This is playing to remember for a lifetime. The Brahms devoured the audience like a great, warm tongue as the musicians hypnotized listeners into erotic grandeur. 
 
O, lucky we who were in the audience this evening! Dear reader, make sure that you see the Ebene String Quartet when they next appear, or forever despair.
 
Princeton University concerts continue their 2022 spring season with Tetzlaff String Quartet, April 21, and Sheku Kanneh-Mason, cello, with Isata Kanneh-Mason, piano, April 27. For tickets, 609-258-2800 or www.puc.princeton.edu 

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