|St Jean||St Marc||St Mathieu||St Luc|
The Evangelists are the world’s only played matched set of string quartet instruments by a major maker.
Arts Global Director Heather de Haes remarks, "Each instrument is outstanding in its own right,
but when heard as a group their collective sound assumes an extraordinary beauty and radiant energy."
The instruments were acquired in April 2008 with a view to contributing to the artistic growth of emerging string quartets of the first rank.
The Pilgrimage of The Evangelists
"No dents!" Laurent Marfaing remembers noticing when he was first presented with St Matthew in April 2008. The description was perhaps fitting, as the viola had been "sleeping", completely unheard, for at least 35 years. St Matthew is a member of The Evangelists, a string quartet unique to the world in that it represents the only matched set made by a master maker with wood from the same tree.
Built in Paris, 1863, by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, The Evangelists (comprised of St John and St Mark violins, St Matthew viola and St Luke cello) were acquired by the Swiss Global Foundation in April 2008 and loaned to the Paris-based Modigliani Quartet, of which Laurent Marfaing is violist. The loan to Modigliani for a period of two years represents the Foundation's ongoing commitment to help young artists attain the highest levels of musical performance and professional advancement.
For The Evangelists, who had for 35 years been sleeping silently in the chambers of luthier Étienne Vatelot, so began a period of "waking up". What follows is a historical timeline of the "Pilgrimage", or journey, of these four extraordinary instruments…
17 April 2008 – Jours des Arts V, Hotel Victoria, Glion, Switzerland. Mere days after the Modigliani Quartet received the loan of The Evangelists, the ensemble appeared at the Swiss Global Artistic Foundation's annual cultural retreat. Nestled high in the Swiss Alps, overlooking Montreux and Lake Geneva, the quartet entertained guests over the four-day period with string quartets of Ravel and Fauré, as well as Debussy's Danse Sacrée et Profane with Isabelle Perrin harp.
5 June 2008 – National Arts Club, New York, USA. In their American debut The Evangelists were presented in a private preview performance, which featured the Ravel String Quartet in F. The programme, presented by Swiss Global and including only Foundation Young Artists, opened with Australian guitarist Simon Powis playing the Fandango from Boccherini's Guitar Quintet No.4, and continued with French flautist Clément Dufour in Mozart's D Major Flute Quartet. The response from the standing-room-only, invited audience of over 250 people was overwhelming!
27 September 2008 – Le Sénat, Paris, France. The French Senate was the superb setting for the Official Public Launch of The Evangelists, co-presented by the Swiss Global Artistic Foundation and Senator Ivan Renar under the patronage of Monsieur Christian Poncelet, President of the Senate. René Martin, the distinguished French impresario and concert organiser, facilitated the event.
|St Jean [St John] has always been the best. Instant love affair, amazing connection and chemistry. S. Jean has big personality and isn’t easy to rein in. At the beginning I had to go in different directions to find a way to regulate it. It is not somebody relaxed or cool. I had to make ten different adjustments at the beginning to find a balance. When I make a choice with the instrument, I get an answer immediately but I pay a price!
Philippe Bernhard, Violin 1, playing on St Jean
5 November 2008 – La Baule Festival, France. Impresario René Martin organised the latest of his eagerly awaited series of festivals, this year featuring the recent acquisition of The Evangelists by the Modigliani Quartet. The quartet, Heather de Haes and luthier Étienne Vatelot were interviewed on television by Radio France while at the festival, where topics discussed included the purchasing of The Evangelists, as well as the relationship between Swiss Global and the Modigliani Quartet. In concert at the festival, the group performed quartets by Ravel and Haydn, and quintets by Brahms and Schubert.
10 December 2008 – Hotel Beau Rivage Palace, Lausanne, Switzerland. The beautiful Salon Sandoz served as the venue where The Evangelists were presented in their Swiss debut and Official Inauguration. The concert, presented by the Swiss Global Artistic Foundation, featured strings quartets by Haydn and Debussy.
14 December 2008 – Le Châtelet, Paris, France. The Evangelists' first concert of international significance since the official public launch in September took place at the 2000-seat Théâtre du Châtelet. Organised by Jeanine Roze Productions, the performance featured the Mozart Quintet with Michel Portal and Mendelssohn Quartet opus 44 no. 1. Philippe Bernhard noted, "It was the first time we felt comfortable in a big hall. In a big hall you don’t have feeling that you create a big sound, so with The Evangelists it was a new feeling. Sometimes you play in places that aren't good acoustically, so the Châtelet was different. When you feel comfortable about the sound, you play better. We played at a new level – you have to have good instruments."
|St Marc [St Mark] is a violin for the colors: a big palette of colors, bright and dark. The lowest strings are very round, like a viola. So at first, there were many visits to luthier to make it not sound so much like a viola! We adjusted it to brighten the sound. The job of the 2nd violin [in a string quartet] is to put in color and create the symphonic sound of the quartet (“Along with the viola!” interrupts Laurent). Sometimes briefly, when 1st violin stops, the 2nd violin must be the leader, so its sound must be as powerful as the 1st. St Mark naturally wants to go lower, so it’s perhaps the most “Italian” instrument in the quartet, the least "French".
Loïc Rio, Violin 2, playing on St Marc
March 2009 – Musée du Louvre, Paris, France. The superb acoustics under the Louvre’s Pyramid enhanced the unforgettable sonority of The Evangelists in a sold-out 2-day concert series. The concerts were heavily advertised on television and in newspapers, and the reviews were outstanding. The press and public at large were quickly becoming aware of this powerful musical presence. Click to read the reviews from Le Figaro and Classiqueinfo.com #1 and #2.
May 2009 – Tokyo, Japan. The highlight of the Japanese debut for the group was a memorable encounter with famed Italian pianist Maurizio Pollini, who attended the performance because the Modiglianis were playing a piece he did not know – namely, the Bach Fugues transcribed by Mozart for String Quartet.
|The sound of St Mathieu [St Matthew] opened naturally. It was initially quite “sleepy”! It needed to be played more and more. Now it has softness and quality of timbre that is necessary for the viola in a string quartet.
Laurent Marfaing, Viola, playing on St Mathieu
June 2009 – Jerusalem, Israel. The Pilgrimage to the Middle East included a collaborative concert with the Spanish-based Casals Quartet. Featured works included the Mendelssohn String Quartet and String Octet.
16 August 2009 – La Roque d’Antheron, France. This outdoor concert concluded the summer season for The Evangelists and the Modigliani Quartet, which featured appearances at several French music Festivals. The concert at La Roque d’Antheron was broadcast live on radio for many European countries, and included the Vierne Piano Quintet and works by Mendelssohn and Schumann.
|St Luc [St Luke] has a very intimate sound. It has its own sound. The balance is perfect! Has no weaknesses. A very natural fit for me.
François Kieffer, Cello, playing on St Luc
The Modiglianis believe it took several months for the instruments to fully "wake up" after being silent for so many decades. They also note how fortunate it was that The Evangelists had "slept together" for the same time length, and therefore went through the same period of rousing. Loïc Rio comments that he has never heard violins sound so similar, referring to St John and St Mark – "two brothers", in fact, "with different personalities but sharing the same blood."
(The tenure of The Evangelists with the Modigliani Quartet ended in early 2010.)
March 2010 – The renowned young Swiss violinist Rachel Kolly d’Alba recorded her latest CD with St Jean, the first violin of The Evangelists. The recording, featuring music of Saint-Saëns and Ysaÿe, is Ms d’Alba’s second album. Swiss Global's loan of St Jean to Ms d'Alba continued through her ensuing concert tour, and ended in late April. Click here for further information.
July 2010 – Competition for the use of The Evangelists
On 13 July, the Swiss Global Artistic Foundation hosted its first International Competition at Wigmore Hall in London, England. The prizes for winning string quartet, as determined by a panel of distinguishes judges, included membership of the Foundation's Artists' Roster, use of The Evangelists for two years, and a recording contract on the Cala Records/Swiss Global label.
In an unforgettable conclusion to the Competition, the British-based ensemble, the Finzi Quartet, were chosen from five competing string quartets during the final round of competition. The Finzi Quartet displayed a particular affinity for The Evangelists when performing with the prized instruments onstage at London’s Wigmore Hall, and demonstrated strong potential to develop into a very fine ensemble.