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 Recording of the Week  The Quatuor Ebène and the Gramophone Awards

This year’s Gramophone Awards took place last Friday at London’s Dorchester Hotel. It was an excellent day including live music from, amongst others, the Sixteen and French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet and, importantly (as the ceremony itself is still essentially an industry-facing event), it served as another reminder that the doom and gloom that so often gets published in the press about the state of the classical recording industry is largely unfounded. The quality and calibre of the finalists and winners this year again proved that there is absolutely no shortage of fantastic recordings still being produced.

Quatuor Ebène
Quatuor Ebène

I’m pleased to say that many of the discs that you’ve been reading about here over the past year came out winners and personally I was particularly pleased to see Vasily Petrenko and the RLPO’s superb disc of Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony pick up the orchestral category (incidentally Naxos’ first ever Gramophone Award), and NMC’s ‘state-of-the-contemporary-song’ NMC Songbook pick up the Contemporary award.

The really big award – the overall Record of the Year – went to the superb young French group the Quatuor Ebene for their recording of the Ravel, Debussy and Fauré String Quartets. It is a really stunning disc in which it is very hard to find fault. This music demands a huge variety of different sound worlds, at times the quartet need to be beautiful and tender, sometimes their sound must be intense and rich, and other times exciting and full of rhythmic vitality. They can do all these and what’s more they play with such a perfectly blended ensemble that, when the melody passes from one instrument to another, unless you know the score you’ll often have no idea.

In all a really worthy winner, and great to see the Gramophone acknowledging them so early in their careers. You can listen to some extended samples of this disc as well as their two early discs of Haydn and Bartók on the Quatuor Ebène’s own website. We’ve also put a fifteen minute film about the quartet and this recording on our website accessed via the link below. It is in French, but does have subtitles and there is plenty of music on it to listen to.

Finally I should also mention that you can browse full details of all the 2009 Gramophone Award Winners here.

Ravel, Debussy, Fauré - String Quartets

Quatuor Ebène

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC