Cellist Raphaël Merlin to Stand Down from Quatuor Ebène After 25 Years
Japanese cellist Yuya Okamoto will join the quartet as Merlin's replacement
After a quarter of a century's service, the French cellist Raphaël Merlin has announced that he will stand down from his position in France's Quatuor Ebène. His place will be taken by the Japanese cellist Yuya Okamoto, who received Second Prize at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in 2017.
During Merlin's tenure, the quartet completed their studies with Quatuor Ysaÿe in Paris as well as with Gábor Takács, Eberhard Feltz, and György Kurtág. The group then won the 2004 ARD Music Competition, and then in 2005, the quartet was awarded the Belmont Prize of the Forberg-Schneider Foundation. They went on to win the Borletti-Buitoni Trust in 2007 and became the first ensemble to be honored with the Frankfurt Music Prize in 2019.
Alongside his work with the quartet, Raphaël Merlin began to develop his conducting career. In 2014, he founded the ensemble "Les Forces Majeures," which has recorded an acclaimed disc of Rossini with mezzo-soprano Karine Deshayes— as well as an album with cellist Edgar Moreau.
As conductor, Merlin has been invited to lead the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Lockenhaus Festival Orchestra, the Orchestre de l'Opéra de Rouen, and the Orchestre d'Auvergne, among others.
Merlin is also a composer, and his work Eléa — a concerto for string quartet and orchestra — was premiered by Quatuor Ebène in 2011.
"Today, we say thank you to our dear cellist, Raphaël Merlin, who after nearly 25 years with us is embarking on his own musical journey," the quartet said. "Raphaël, we feel deeply moved to see you leave, but it has been our greatest pleasure to have shared almost a quarter of a century together."
"Now, we are delighted and proud to welcome Yuya Okamoto in the Quatuor Ebène. He is not only an extraordinary musician, but also brings a lot of happiness to our group. Yuya, we look forward to many joyful, exciting, and ambitious musical encounters with you!"
You can hear the quartet announcing Merlin's resignation and speaking about his tenure below.