Arts, Culture & Media

France's Quatuor Ebene

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French group Ebene Quartet. (Photo: quatuorebene.com)

Credit:

Manya Gupta

The French string quartet "Quatuor Ebene" has built its reputation on the standard classical repertoire, with composers that range from Joseph Haydn to Maurice Ravel.

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But on the its latest CD, aptly named 'Fiction," the quartet has chosen a new direction: Hollywood.

The quartet performed jazz standards, and theme songs from American films.

"Misirlou" is a Greek folk tune that became a surf-rock anthem in the 60s.

It popped up again in the 1994 film "Pulp Fiction."

Raphael Merlin is Quatuor Ebene's cellist. He said a French television music program commissioned them to write this new arrangement.

"We wanted to make something shocking from the very beginning of this title," he said, "and then we followed the main theme."

At first, they weren't into it, but in the end, they surprised themselves with a wild scoring which travels from Hungary to Argentina in a heartbeat.

"The beginning would be closer to Bartok's style," Merlin said, "but from the second minute, this is very influenced by tango nuevo."

Merlin said that for the musicians who spend most of their days interpreting scores, jamming together to come up with arrangements was a thrilling experience.

The band explores new music not only with its bows, but also with its voices. Its version of "Some Day My Prince Will Come," from "Snow White" has the band alternate sung verses and string verses.

Violist Mathieu Herzog also sings a solo on the track "Streets of Philadelphia."

The group did enlist the help of some professional voices though, like jazz American vocalist Stacey Kent, Spanish singer Luz Casal, and French soprano Natalie Dessay.

Merlin said working with artists with such different backgrounds was what made this "crossover" project so exciting.

Drummer Richard Hery lends his beats to many of the tracks, including the jazz standard "Nature Boy" and the funky tune from the movie "Ocean's 12"

Merlin said that the "Ocean 12"³ experiment began as a dare from violinist Pierre Colombet.

"We enjoyed watching the film together and Pierre had the idea, 'let's play that!' And (I said) 'What? Come on, you want to play that thing which is so simple tagadagadaga—ta, and there's nothing else?' And he said 'This is exactly the best occasion to do together funk music.'"

Merlin said funk and jazz are fun to play, though classical music will always be the group's raison d'etre.

"We won't ever let the classical repertoire fall down," he said.