Nothing is off-limits for clair-obscur – they play what they want and they prove again and again that music of the most different styles can move the audience as long as it is played and presented well. Of course, it has to sound great, too! Clair-obscur’s tailor-made arrangements (that are meanwhile played by other ensembles as well) make it hard to believe that there is “only” a quartet performing on stage. Their very own sound, the somnambulistic interplay of the same cast after years of interrupted ensemble work, and their playful, relaxed and humorous performance make every clair-obscur concert an unforgettable experience.
It is no surprise that clair-obscur has been one of the most renowned quartets of its kind for many years, as shown by performances at the Carnegie Hall, the Philharmonie Berlin, at the Lucerne Festival and the Schleswig-Holstein Musikfestival.
The extraordinary individual quality of its members – who regularly form the saxophone group of the Berliner Philharmoniker – is further enhanced when the ensemble is playing together: clair-obscur are so much more than the sum of their parts and, as the first saxophone quartet ever, they were admitted to the chamber music concert exam at the Academy of Music “Hanns Eisler”, where they were taught by Prof. Friedemann Weigle (Artemis Quartett). Weigle encouraged the four artists to be original and to have “Rock’n’Roll skills” – with which he did not refer to the genre, but rather their energetic and gripping way of playing. He thereby turned four entirely different characters into an entity. Afterwards, the quartet went on to win national and international competitions.
clair-obscur have already released nine highly versatile CD recordings, featuring works as diverse as chamber music from the Baroque to the modern age, contemporary first recordings, concert works for saxophone quartet and orchestra, children’s audio books and portrait albums of individual composers. The radio broadcasting stations RBB, BR, WDR and Deutschlandradio Kultur are only some of their collaboration partners for productions.
As soloist ensemble, they have performed with the MDR Sinfonieorchester, the Jenaer Philharmonie, the Bielefelder Philharmonikern and many others, and they have participated in a number of premieres and debut performances of works by reputable composers, many of which – such as “Berlin Punk” by Enjott Schneider – have been specifically written for the ensemble.
clair-obscur’s extraordinary personality is not only shown by their captivating stage presence, their musical enthusiasm, and the interplay between the four musicians, which is characterised by blindly intuitive teamwork, but also by the concert series at the Ballhaus Berlin, which the ensemble has organised themselves. This is where unusual formats meet prominent guests such as oboist Dominik Wollenweber and actors Boris Aljinovic (known as Berlin-based chief inspector in German TV murder mystery series “Tatort”) and Rolf Becker.
Since the Renaissance, the French term clair-obscur (chiaroscuro in Italian) in visual arts refers to the use of extreme contrasts between light and dark, with the aim of dramatically escalating the expression.