Chiaroscuro Quartet


Formed in 2005, the Chiaroscuro Quartet comprises violinists Alina Ibragimova (Russia) and Pablo Hernán Benedí (Spain), the Swedish violist Emilie Hörnlund and cellist Claire Thirion from France. Dubbed ‘a trailblazer for the authentic performance of High Classical chamber music’ in Gramophone, this international ensemble performs music of the Classical and early Romantic periods on gut strings and with historical bows. The quartet’s unique sound – described in The Observer as ‘a shock to the ears of the best kind’ – is highly acclaimed by audiences and critics all over Europe. 

Their growing discography includes recordings of music by Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Mendelssohn. The Chiaroscuro Quartet was a prize-winner of the German Förderpreis Deutschlandfunk/Musikfest Bremen in 2013 and received Germany’s most prestigious CD award, the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik in 2015 for their recording of Mozart’s Quartet in D minor, K.421 and Mendelssohn’s Second string quartet in A minor, Op. 13. Among the ensemble’s chamber music partners are renowned artists such as Kristian Bezuidenhout, Trevor Pinnock, Jonathan Cohen, Nicolas Baldeyrou, Chen Halevi, Malcolm Bilson and Christophe Coin. 

Recent engagements included their enthusiastically received debut concerts at Vienna Konzerthaus and Philharmonie Warsaw. In April 2016 the quartet embarked on its first tour to Japan playing concerts in Tokyo and Hyogo. Other highlights have taken the ensemble to the Edinburgh International Festival, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, London’s Wigmore Hall, Auditorio Nacional de Música Madrid, Music Festival Grafenegg, The Sage Gateshead (recorded for BBC Radio 3), Auditorium du Louvre Paris, Théâtre du Jeu-de-Paume in Aix-en-Provence, Grand Théâtre de Dijon, Gulbenkian Foundation Lisbon, West Cork Festival and for a residency to Aldeburgh. 

For the 2016/17 season, the Chiaroscuro Quartet appears on stage for various recitals in the UK including, London, Cardiff, Manchester and Cheltenham and well as performances in Dortmund, Berlin, Oslo, Hasselt and Ghent. Their latest recording was released in July 2016 on BIS Records, featuring Haydn’s Opus 20 quartets.  

Since 2009, the Chiaroscuro Quartet has been artist-in-residence in Port-Royal-des-Champs giving a concert series dedicated to Mozart’s string quartets.

June 2016 - This biography is not to be edited without permission of Askonas Holt
Individual biographies available here

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Concert 06 October 2016

Leicester New Walk Museum & Art Gallery

“An idea of what one was about to hear might have been had from the quartet’s name, a word describing a particular kind of painting which favours highly dramatic almost brutal contrasts of light and shade. And that is what in musical terms this concert delivered... it reminded one of the truth that great music is defined by the myriad of possibilities it offers both performer and listener and these performers offered this listener at least a number of revelatory moments.” The Diary of a Leicester Concert-goer, 8 October 2016
"After the interval came Schubert’s Death and the Maiden Quartet. The first movement was taken very fast, with darkly-toned pianissimos and violent, astringent fortes. Just what these period instruments can achieve in this repertoire was magically demonstrated at the end of the first movement when the dark minor chords became mysterious, very deep. This was a fascinating and rewarding concert, appreciated by an enthusiastic and supportive audience." Sarah Musgrave, Malvern Gazette, October 2016

HAYDN String Quartets, 'Sun' Op.20 - No 1-3

CD Recording

BIS 2158

"...Memorable, too, are their fine line-drawing and acute response to the ebb and flow of harmonic tension in No 1's Affetuoso e sostenuto (repeats, as ever, imaginatively rethought), and their shaping and colouring of the paired middle movements of No 2. In the latter the musette-minuet emerges dazed and weightless into the light after the disintegrating close of the C minor Capriccio -- an exquisite moment and a reminder that sensitive gradations of piano, pianissimo and even (at the enigmatic close of No 3) ppp are among the chief strengths of these thoughtful, fine grained performances." Richard Wigmore, Gramophone Magazine
“Where they surpass those earlier ‘period’ performances is in the radiant refinement of their sound, and their suave sensitivity of the phrasing. One hears this immediately in easeful launch of the E flat, Op.20 No. 1, and the intimate dying fall Ibragimova imparts to the little solo leading to the second subject.”  Bayan Northcott, BBC Music Magazine November 2016
"The Chiaroscuro Quartet lives up to its name in these imaginative, flexible accounts of the first three of Haydn’s six ‘Sun’ Quartets, introducing a wide range of dynamic nuances and strong contrasts of light and shade. With tempos, blend and balance finely judged, these are period-instrument performances of the utmost subtlety and refinement, conveyed with technical assurance in an easy-going, conversational manner and captured in exemplary fashion by BIS’s recording team." Robin Stowell, The Strad, November 2016
"The Chiaroscuro’s approach is idiosyncratic with regard to dynamics, tempi and phrasing; they make the music intimate and personal, revealing Haydn’s ‘romanticism’... this is deeply thoughtful playing – the highlight of a rewarding disc." Claire Seymour, Music Web International, February 2017


CD Recording

Aparté AP092

"No shortage of drama...The delightful Intermezzo, also with an allegro interlude, displays the poise which is one of this group's strongest suits" Martin Cotton, BBC Music Magazine, May 2015
"There is no doubt that there is the sort of energy on this disc, particularly in the Mendelssohn, that is hard to find anywhere else [...] this ensemble is without a doubt a trailblazer for the authentic performance of High Classical chamber music." Caroline Gill, Gramophone, May 2015
"The historically concerned players of Alina Ibragimova’s Chiaroscuro Quartet bring the works closer together than you might expect, handling the Mendelssohn in a way that’s more tonally austere than usual, the Mozart in a way that’s more personal and romantic. Common to both is the deep consideration to which the music has been subjected, and the players’ willingness to embrace unorthodox outcomes" Michael Dervan, The Irish Times, 22 March 2015
"It’s as if the Chiaroscuro’s performances, nimble, febrile and disturbing, expose the connections rather than the differences – as if Mozart, in his harmonic explorations, is reaching out to the musical world in which, decades later, Mendelssohn would mature. The group’s unadorned sound is a shock to the ears of the best, most arresting kind." Fiona Maddocks, 22 March 2015
"Daring, emotionally uncompromising playing from Chiaroscuro, with first violinist Alina Ibragimova taking risks with the recitative like writing, the quartet never shying away from the bold, bare sound they can produce with their gut string instruments, especially in the opening of Mozart’s D Minor quartet, which is the coupling, but it’s also the musicianship of great warmth as I hope you heard … a really intelligent piece of programming.” Andrew McGregor, BBC Radio 3, 14 February 2015
"The Chiaroscura Quartet are well-named. Playing with gut strings is one thing; playing with such assuredness and golden musicality on them is another. And in both these minor 
key quartets – Mozart’s No15 in D minor, and Mendelssohn’s No2 in A minor – they exude a genuine feeling for subtly shifting shades and colours.  There’s an inner spirit in the Mozart they capture deliciously, the whimsical delicacies of the final allegretto variations, for instance. And the Mendelssohn is an absorbing journey, from the underlying sobriety of the opening to the fiery drama of the finale." Ken Walton, The Scotsman, 14 February 2015


CD Recording

Aparté AP051

"Pour eux, la musique, comme la peinture, est affaire de clair-obscur. Les tempétueux Chiaroscuro dispensent lumière et ténèbres avec brio." Gilles Macassar, Telerama, 19 September 2013


CD Recording

Aparte AP022

"This is an impressive debut recording, and the light and shade of the playing fully justifies the name the group has chosen for itself...It’s not often you hear period instrument playing of such consummate and seemingly effortless virtuosity." BBC Music Magazine, September 2012
"Played like this the music emerges with invigorating freshness and clarity, unburdened by layers of interpretative accretion, and the discreet engineering captures the moving intimacy of the results with disarming naturalness. One of the most impressive chamber recording debuts of recent years." Julian Haylock, The Strad 26 January 2012
"The Classical period specialists, who take their name from the art technique of contrasting light and dark, chose three pieces which amply demonstrated why they are acclaimed throughout Europe." Peter Collins, Wales Online, 19 September 2014
"Their technique is impeccable only players of the highest calibre could risk such an exposed, unadorned approach and make it sound this good and their unanimous musical intuition makes consistent sense so that every phrase takes the space it needs and every gesture feels natural." Herald Scotland, 13 August 2013
"Their excellent ensemble skills rely much less on eye contact than is often the case in quartet playing. It seemed to be much more about listening and “feeling” the music together." Alan Coady, Bachtrack, 13 August 2013
"...ces quatre solistes venus d'horizons différents (une Russe, un Espagnol, une Suédoise, une Française) cumulent, à leur manière, les qualités des Diotima et des Ebène." Bertrand Dermoncourt, l'express, 5 April 2013


Mozart - Mendelssohn

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 1756-1791
1-4 String quartet in D minor, n° 15, K 421

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy 1809-1847
5-8 String quartet in A minor, n° 2, op. 13
Aparté AP092

Beethoven - Mozart

Ludwig van Beethoven 1770-1827
1-4 String quartet in F minor n° 11, op. 95 "Quartetto Serioso"

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 1756-1791
5-6 Adagio and Fugue in C minor, K 546
Aparté AP051

Mozart - Schubert

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 1756-1791
1-4 String quartet in C major, n° 19, K 465, "Dissonances"

Franz Schubert 1797-1828
5-8 String quartet in A minor, n° 13, D804, "Rosamunde"
Aparté ‎– AP022