String Quartet

Chiaroscuro Quartet

“without a doubt a trailblazer for the authentic performance of High Classical chamber music”  Gramophone 

Alina Ibragimova, violin
Pablo Hernán Benedí, violin
Emilie Hörnlund, viola
Claire Thirion, cello

Credit: Eva Vermandel


Formed in 2005, 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, Mendelssohn and Haydn. Recent releases include Schubert ‘Death and the Maiden’ & String Quartet, D.173 and Haydn Op.76. Future releases include Beethoven Op.18 and Mozart ‘Prussian’ Quartets.

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, Cedric Tiberghien, Nicolas Baldeyrou, Chen Halevi, Malcolm Bilson, Christian Poltera and Christophe Coin.

Recent engagements included their enthusiastically received debut concerts at Vienna Konzerthaus and Philharmonie Warsaw, their first US tour and a return visit to Japan. Other highlights have taken the ensemble to Edinburgh International Festival, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, London’s Wigmore Hall, Auditorio Nacional de Música Madrid, Music Festival Grafenegg, The Sage Gateshead, Auditorium du Louvre Paris, Gulbenkian Foundation Lisbon, West Cork Festival and Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh for a residency.

In the 20/21 season, Chiaroscuro Quartet give concerts in the UK, including Wigmore Hall, King’s Place, a residency at Turner Sims and appear at numerous other venues and festivals including Boulez Saal & Konzerthaus Berlin, Beethovenfest Bonn, Helsinki, Japan, China and North America. Since 2009, Chiaroscuro Quartet have been artist-in-residence in Port-Royal-des-Champs.

Chiaroscuro Quartet are grateful to Jumpstart Jr Foundation for the kind loan of the 1570 Andrea Amati violin.



  • More info  
    Haydn String Quartets op. 76 no. 4-6

    Label: BIS Records

    Release Date: 05 Feb 21

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    Haydn String Quartets op. 76 nos.1-3

    Label: BIS Records

    Release Date: 15 May 20

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    Schubert String Quartets no. 9 and 14

    Label: BIS Records

    Release Date: 05 Oct 18

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    Haydn 'Sun' Quartets op.20 / 4-6

    Label: BIS

    Release Date: 30 Jun 17

    The second volume of Haydn's String Quartets op.20

    String Quartet in D Op.20/4

    String Quartet in F minor Op.20/5

    String Quartet in A Op.20/6

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    Haydn – ‘Sun’ Quartets Op.20, Nos. 1-3

    Label: BIS-2158

    Release Date: 11 Jul 16

    String Quartet in E flat major, Op. 20 No. 1
    String Quartet in C major, Op. 20 No. 2
    String Quartet in G minor, Op. 20 No. 3

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    Beethoven - Mozart

    Label: Aparté AP051

    Release Date: 08 Apr 13

    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

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    Mozart - Mendelssohn

    Label: Aparté AP092

    Release Date: 09 Feb 15

    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

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    Mozart - Schubert

    Label: Aparté ‎– AP022

    Release Date: 24 Oct 11

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 1756-1791
    1-4 String quartet in C major, n° 19, K465,”Dissonances”
    Franz Schubert 1797-1828
    5-8 String quartet in A minor, n° 13, D804, “Rosamunde”

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    13 Mar 21 Haydn: String Quartets op.76 4-6

    “Das Chiaroscuro Quartett macht Haydns Witz mit seiner funkelnden Intelligenz und seiner menschlichen Tiefe zu einem aufregenden, unglaublich kurzweiligen Hörvergnügen. Ganz geradeheraus spielen die vier, technisch blitzblank, perfekt artikuliert und detailverliebt, aber auch ideenreich und mit der nötigen Phantasie. In dieser exemplarischen Interpretation sind Haydns Pointen etwas völlig anderes als bloß Jokes: Es sind kleine Erkenntnisblitze, die große Freude bereiten”.

    “The Chiaroscuro Quartet turns Haydn’s wit, with its sparkling intelligence and human depth, into an exciting and hugely entertaining treat for the listener. The four play with candour, consummate technique, perfect articulation and immense attention to detail, yet with a wealth of ideas and indispensable fantasy. In this exemplary interpretation, Haydn’s jokes are entirely different to mere gags. They are flashes of insight that are an absolute delight to hear”.

    BR Klassik –  Album of the Week

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    10 Jun 20 Haydn: String Quartets Op.6/1-3

    “…the understated poise and intelligence of the playing deepen with repeated listening. But they know how to smile, too – listen to the group’s subtle comic timing near the end of No. 1 (they even change the tone-colour of the accompanying pizzicato). The overall effect is simultaneously fresh, thoughtful and wholly life-affirming. The Chiaroscuro’s account of the remaining Op.73 quartets can’t come soon enough.”

    Gramophone, June 2020

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    29 May 20 Haydn: String Quartets op. 76 nos.1-3

    “…simultaneously fresh, thoughtful and wholly life-affirming. The Chiaroscuros’ account of the remaining three Op 76 quartets can’t come soon enough.”
    Gramophone Magazine

    “Without the slightest whiff of HIP, these gifted players relish the expressive potential of their instruments with a bracing instinct for emotional narrative, which far from assuming a historiographical pose, brushes aside rhetorical convention with a forward-looking tendency…This is gloves-off playing that refuses to kowtow to convention (of any kind) and lets Haydn off the leash with a captivating brio that takes everything in its stride”

    The Strad


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    01 Nov 18 Schubert: String Quartet no. 14 'Death and the Maiden' recording

    “…with their ‘period’ sound world allied to hungry tempos and phrasing that vaults across the bar line, Schubert’s darkest quartet seems more than ever a study in the inexorable power of rhythm. It is also, properly, a drama of uncomfortable extremes. In their dangerous night-ride of a finale, straining at the edge of the possible, the Chiaroscuro do not eschew harshness. Here and elsewhere their unvarnished sonorities (vibrato minimal or non-existent) make Schubert’s harmonic clashes all the more excruciating.
    After the coda’s truly frantic più mosso, the Chiaroscuro, with their bleak, blanched pianissimo, suggest traumatised exhaustion: Schubert staring into the void.”
    Gramophone Magazine, November 2018  

    “This is a simply stunning performance, as remarkable for its expressive power as it is for its textural clarity. As well as mastery of period niceties (vibrato is restrained but by no means absent, and deployed with immense thoughtfulness), the group is obviously completely attuned to the Schubertian idiom – that elusive but unmistakable combination of Biedermeier charm, bittersweet Schubertian lyricism, and the visceral emotional engagement of early Romanticism that no other composer comes close to…This is playing of real distinction, combining stylishness and thrilling musicianship in measures rarely encountered. ”
    Europadisc  November 2018

    “This is a dramatic and unsettling performance, its beguiling beauties furiously dispelled.”
    The Strad Magazine, December 2018

    “Fierce dynamics, powerful attack and articulation and superb ensemble in some extreme dramatic reaction to Schubert’s writing… Uncompromising and thrilling in the way they engage in Schubert’s emotional extremes… Not a comfortable ride, and neither should it be.”
    BBC Radio 3 Record Review; Disc of the Week, 16 Nov 2018

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    10 Dec 17 Haydn String Quartets Op 76 National Centre for Early Music

    “The quartet’s mercurial intent became clear from the outset, their take on the “Sunrise” quartet (No. 4) suspended in glowing stillness one moment, brimming with breakneck vivacity the next.”

    The Press

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    22 Jun 17 HAYDN String Quartets Op.20/4-6 Recording

    “Although big contrast is written into the Chiaroscuro name – and with period instruments that show up every gradation, they deliver on that promise – it is always done with exquisite taste. The playing is intense and refined, exploratory and poised. The sound is featherweight, but there is grit and substance when needed. ”

    The Guardian 

    “A dramatically daring reading…the dark timbres of their gut strings allowing them to find a sometimes astonishing range of dynamics and colours, and they’re never shy of seizing on any improvisatory element to Haydn’s phrasing. ”

    BBC Radio 3 Record Review, 15 July 2017


    “…each note is given its resonance, keening dissonances fully realised, high lines lent a fine-spun, fragile beauty while echoing phrases are reduced to mere breaths. ”
    BBC Music Magazine, Recording of the Month. Sept 17

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    06 Oct 16 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 as 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 

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    26 Sep 16 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

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    09 Feb 15 MOZART - MENDELSSOHN 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, The Guardian

    “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

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    08 Apr 13 BEETHOVEN - MOZART 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

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    24 Oct 11 MOZART - SCHUBERT 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