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Qobuzissime: Quatuor Zahir

Quatuor Zahir releases its second album, “L’Heure Bleue”, a sublime panorama of Impressionist music, presented here in elegant transcriptions for saxophone quartet.

Our Qobuzissime award is designed to bring attention to an album that breathes fresh life into the music world, and after an absence of almost 6 years on record, the Zahir saxophone quartet have done just that.

The group returns to Aparté with a second opus revisiting the poetry of the “blue hour”, that intermediate temporal zone between day and night, conducive to dreaming. For the occasion, the members of the quartet have chosen the finest French Impressionist composers: Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc and Boulanger, whose exquisite interpretations they place alongside other beautifully sculpted transcriptions, detailing the full sound palette of their instruments.

Trained at the Paris Conservatoire, Guillaume Berceau, Etienne Boussard, Florent Louman and Joakim Cielsa attracted international attention by winning first prize at the Osaka International Chamber Music Competition in 2017, followed two years later by three gold medals at the Manhattan, Vienna and Berliner International Music Competitions. Their first release, Zahir, released by Klarthe and devoted to the music of Borodin, was released in 2018.

On l’Heure Bleue, transcriptions and original nomenclatures sit serenely side by side in the same corpus, subdued by the power of timbres and the balance of registers. We must salute the perfect convergence of all those details that produce the greatest discs, those destined to remain in the memory: a keen sense of collective in the interpretation, work on textures, exceptional sound recording and deep understanding of the repertoire. The Zahir Quartet’s art of flawless performance is seductive, with their chamber sensibility at its best. The arrangements of Ravel’s “Pavane pour une infante défunte” and Debussy’s “Petite Suite”, which perfectly fulfil their mission as transcriptions - i.e., to inflect the original work without distorting its spirit - are just as appealing as the original creations by Fabien Waksman and Graciane Finzi (”Les Lunes galantes” and “Une petite Suite”), with their eminently Debussystesque accents. It’s a marvellous escape, a decentering of the gaze, a breath of fresh air towards a format that is still all too rare on recordings and in concert programs. In Arabic, “Zahir” means “that which appears obvious”. Today, the Zahir quartet is our evidence.