By Lindsey Davis
Boston, MA – More than three years ago, the Boston Cello Quartet formed from a few of the newest additions to the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Three cellists were selected to join the Orchestra in the same round of auditions – a rare occurrence for such a selective group. Blaise Dejardin, from Strasbourg, France, joined his fellow new BSO additions, Adam Esbensen from Oregon and Alexandre Lecarme from Grasse, France, with their Romanian colleague Mihail Jojatu to create a dynamic new group who have just released their first CD, “Pictures.” Filled with the best selections of their repertoire from three years of playing together, Pictures contains 15 tracks that include everything from Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville: Overture” to “The Waltz of the Black Ants,” written specifically for the group by Japanese composer Tetsuro Hoshii.
LINDSEY: Whose idea was it to start the Boston Cello Quartet?
BLAISE: Well it was my idea, but after the idea it’s everyone’s work, you know? This is very much like teamwork.
LINDSEY: What motivated you to begin the Quartet?
BLAISE: I had a group in Paris when I was a student, and when I got a job with this orchestra, I was amazed at how my colleagues played and I saw the perfect place to have a serious group on a long-term basis. So I just asked them if they would be interested and they were all up for it and I don’t know if they knew exactly what they were getting into, but they all agreed and we’ve had a lot of fun. So we put a first concert together and then more concerts and we did a video game soundtrack and now the CD so it’s all kind of snowballed.
LINDSEY: Awesome, what video game soundtrack?
BLAISE: It’s called “Of Orcs and Men,” it’s like roleplaying — a fantasy kind of game where you’re an orc and you control the city and fight humans and things like that. It’s on XBox 360, Playstation, and PC.
LINDSEY: So cool, what kind of music did you guys make for that?
BLAISE: Mihail knew an excellent composer called Olivier Deriviere who is very famous in the world of video game music, and he actually wrote music for us so it was only four cellos and recorded percussions and special effects.
ADAM: Was choir in it?
BLAISE: A children’s choir.
ADAM: So it’s nice, it’s like very dark — good for cellos.
BLAISE: It’s not what we usually play at Symphony Hall.
LINDSEY: How does what you guys do as a quartet complement what you do as a Symphony?
ADAM: I think it complements it very well actually. First of all it gives us a chance to get to know each other better and play together better, cause we get to know each other’s individually playing a lot better and I think it can only help in Orchestra playing.
LINDSEY: How do you guys select the songs you play together?
BLAISE: Well especially when we started we read lots — we probably read everything that’s available for a quartet and so we had a big pile and at the end we had a small amount of music, so we are very selective and I also started to arrange for the group so that we have music that’s unique to us.
MIHAIL: And with a group like that, you need to have somebody that’s arranging continuously because the repertoire is very very limited. So often composers will write music for you, and so far we’ve only had one composer write pieces for us. His name is Tetsuro Hoshii, he’s a Japanese composer and he just graduated from Berklee. He wrote two pieces for us in a jazz style, it’s very very nice music. And now the Boston Pops are commissioning a piece from us which we’ll play during the Pops’ season in May — the 23rd, 24th and 30th of May.
LINDSEY: What are your favorite types of music to play with the quartet?
MIHAIL: I personally like more of the tango, piezzolas, jazz and the pop stuff.
ADAM: Yeah I think me too — the unusual stuff is kind of the most fun to play, because it’s different and it’s new for us.
MIHAIL: I do love the classical stuff too, but that’s my favorite.
BLAISE: I think I kind of like everything. I think I just really like the sound of four cellos together, so I would think almost anything we play I’d like it.
ADAM: It’s sort of a novelty in itself just the four cellos together.
MIHAIL: And we get to choose this repertoire so sure we like everything that we play. We’re not forced to do anything, it’s all very mutual. Everybody chooses which positions to play, it’s very simple.
LINDSEY: Do you guys have a favorite performance so far with the Quartet?
BLAISE: Well I think we’ve had several good performances but the place that’s very special to us is the Cape, a school that has lots of kids studying the cello. So we had no idea, we showed up for this concert and at least half the hall was packed with cellists or learning cellists, and its funny how you can feel the vibe from the audience. We could really feel that every single thing we were doing was so appreciated. So I think that was very rewarding for us. Actually that concert was our first concert there and then we had another for a bunch of teenagers who had never been to a classical music performance and they came after the concert to ask us to sign the posters, they wanted to put it on their bedroom wall just like pop stars. Which was just so cool because you would think if people don’t really like classical music they can’t really buy into it but no, they had a great time with us and it was very exciting. And it’s fun for us to see that, to carry classical music forward a bit.
MIHAIL: I also enjoyed at the beginning of this season, playing for Opening Night Gala, and being included with the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra students which range in age from 12 to 16. So that was a lot of fun for us, to open the season.
BLAISE: Yeah we had a great time. I just think cellists like playing with each other — even in school we’re always a pretty friendly bunch. Other instruments might go against each other but cellists are pretty supportive.
LINDSEY: Why do you think that is, that cellists are more amicable? Are other instruments more competitive by nature?
BLAISE: Well we’re just better people (laugh). Well maybe originally it was less competitive because violins have to play really high and have to work really really hard while in a string quartet the cellist plays the bass which is really a supporting role. So I think its really about the culture of the supporting role and never really trying to attract all the attention to yourself.
MIHAIL: Also the range of the instrument – it has this amazing range that can reach from bass to very very high like the violin. There’s no other instrument like it and I think that’s a big part of why cello ensembles are going to be around for a long time.
LINDSEY: Are there any other organizations like you within the Boston Symphony Orchestra who perform?
BLAISE: There are a couple of string quartets, some brass ensembles.
LINDSEY: Do you ever perform with any of them?
BLAISE: Actually we’re planning on doing some partnerships this summer.
(The Boston Cello Quartet performs a free concert this Friday, March 8 at 8 p.m. at Wayland High School on the main stage in the North building, 264 Old Connecticut Path in Wayland, Mass.; as of 1 p.m., it plans to hold the concert as scheduled. For more information, call (508) 358-2667. For details on future BCQ concerts, visit http://www.bostoncelloquartet.org.)