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Ébène String Quartet Closes Princeton University Concerts’ 125th Anniversary Season

April 8, 2019

After an extraordinary 125th anniversary season, Princeton University Concerts (“PUC”) closes its 2018-19 programming with the acclaimed, genre-defying Ébène String Quartet. Making a much-anticipated return to the series on Thursday, May 2, 2019 at 8PM in Richardson Auditorium (Alexander Hall), the ensemble -- now with new violist Marie Chilemme as the first female member in the quartet’s history -- will perform two string quartets by Ludwig van Beethoven that bookend the composer’s career (No. 1 in F Major, Op. 18 and No. 14 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 131), as well as their signature rendition of Gabriel Fauré’s String Quartet in E Minor, Op. 121 -- the first time that it has ever been performed on the series. At 7PM, ticketholders are invited for an announcement and presentation of this year’s winner(s) of PUC’s annual Creative Reactions Contest, a writing and visual arts contest that asks Princeton University students to respond to themes on this year’s series.

Tickets are $10-$55, available online at, by phone at 609-258-9220, or in person two hours prior to the concert at the Richardson Auditorium Box Office.

As part of PUC’s “Beyond the Music” programming, members of the quartet will participate in a Q&A at the Princeton Garden Theatre following a screening, on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at 7:30, of the documentary “4” about the Ébène String Quartet by Daniel Kutschinski. Tickets for the documentary screening are available at the Princeton Garden Theatre.

Having begun with a special concert by vocalist Bobby McFerrin, PUC’s 125th anniversary season is bookended by musicians who transcend genre, focusing on the inherent joy of music-making at the highest quality. This concert will be the Ébène String Quartet’s third appearance on our series. Having made their series debut in 2014 with a program that included everything from chamber music classics to their trademark arrangements of jazz classics to an encore a cappella version (yes, they sing too!) of the Disney classic “Some Day My Prince Will Come,” each of their visits is a joyful, surprise-filled experience. This is the first time that the quartet is bringing a strictly classical program to our series—an opportunity to witness the spontaneity and creativity of their playing breathing new life into timeless classics.

“A string quartet that can easily morph into a jazz band,” wrote the New York Times after a 2009 performance by the Quatuor Ebène. The ensemble opened with Debussy and Haydn and then improvised on a film music theme—with exactly the same enthusiasm and passion.

What began in 1999 as a distraction in the university’s practice rooms for the four young French musicians has become a trademark of the Quatuor Ebène, and has generated lasting reverberations in the music scene. The four breathe new life into chamber music through their consistently direct, open-minded perspective on the works. Regardless of the genre, they approach the music with humility and respect. They change styles with gusto, and yet remain themselves: with all the passion that they experience for each piece, and which they bring to the stage and to their audiences directly and authentically.

There is no single word that describes their style: they’ve created their own. Their traditional repertoire does not suffer from their engagement with other genres; rather, their free association with diverse styles brings a productive excitement to their music. From the beginning, the complexity of their oeuvre has been greeted enthusiastically by audiences and critics.

After studies with the Quatuor Ysaÿe in Paris and with Gábor Takács, Eberhard Feltz and György Kurtág, the quartet had an unprecedented victory at the ARD Music Competition 2004. This marked the beginning of their rise, which has culminated in numerous prizes and awards. The Quatuor Ebène’s concerts are marked by a special elan. With their charismatic playing, their fresh approach to tradition and their open engagement with new forms, the musicians have been successful in reaching a wide audience of young listeners; they communicate their knowledge in regular master classes at the Conservatoire Paris. The quartet was one of the award winners of the Borletti-Buitoni Trust in 2007 and received support from the BBT between 2007 and 2017. In 2005, the ensemble won the Belmont Prize of the Forberg-Schneider Foundation. Since then, the Foundation has worked closely with the musicians, who are performing on instruments chosen with and loaned by Gabriele Forberg-Schneider since 2009.


WHEN: Thursday, May 2, 2019 at 8PM
WHAT: BEETHOVEN: String Quartet No. 1 in F Major, Op. 18, No. 1
FAURÉ: String Quartet in E Minor, Op. 121
BEETHOVEN: String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 131

WHERE: Princeton University Concerts, Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall, Princeton University
TICKETS: $55, 45, 25 General; $10 Students. Tickets are available online at, by phone at 609-258-9220, or in person two hours prior to the concert at the Richardson Auditorium Box Office.
FILM SCREENING:  “4,” a documentary about the Ébène String Quartet by Daniel Kutschinski at the Princeton Garden Theatre. Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at 7:30PM, followed by a Q&A with the musicians. Tickets at the Princeton Garden Theatre.
PHOTOS: Please contact Dasha Koltunyuk at or 609-258-6024.

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Dasha (Darya) Koltunyuk
Phone:  609-258-6024