Meeting the Tana Quartet

Meeting the Tana Quartet – Interview do Antoine Maisonhaute, violin

Quatuor Tana - Shadows
Quatuor Tana – Shadows

Avec Antoine Maisonhaute

It was on the occasion of their participation at the Festival de Royaumont next 9 september that I have met Antoine Maisonhaute, one of the two violinists. With his sister Jeanne, cellist, the violinist Ivan Lebrun and the violist Maxime Desert, This young quartet – the 4 musicians are in their thirties – has the particularity of specializing in contemporary music: already more than 150 creations to its credit.


They met at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, one of the only institutions that had applied the Bologna University reform since 2001, while they were pursuing master’s degrees in music and pedagogy; In 2011, following their participation in the Chamber Music Academy of the Aix-en-Provence Festival, they decided to test the quartet for two years to see if the project was viable in the duration. They have since abandoned their other commitments and live exclusively of their performances in quartet. They give 60 to 70 concerts a year depending on the season.


“Classical pieces are our identity from which we build our programs in which we associate contemporary pieces by looking for relations between works. For creations, there are two scenarios: either it is a command of a festival for example in which case the work is worked at least three months before the creation, or it is a collaborative work with the composer who submits to us extracts of the score which we usually annotate on a tablet; the modern means of communication help us a lot. We play all possible aesthetics, we could give three times more creations, but we prefer to work in depth, in relation with the composer. There are finally rather few quartests specialized in contemporary music (The Arditti, the Jacks quartett in the USA, the Chilean quartet UNTREF or the Italian Prometeo). Repertoire (the Diotima). The quartet Tana is in line with the quartets Lasalle or Italiano which played the repertoire but also modern pieces.

We have been doing recently several times the Debussy’s quartet, and the interpretation has received a superb reception: the practice of contemporary music allows us to bring new light on parts of the repertoire


“At the concert of 9 September we will put match Bartók’s 4th with a creation by Edwin Hillier, Alex Mincek’s 3rd quartet, un compositeur américain who compose a motoric, repetitive music, but with ‘European’ tones, a little bit like a repetitive Yann Robin répétitif, Aand finally the third quartet of the latter, which we play very often since last year.
It is interesting to be able to show Royaumont to young composers how to compose programs of contemporary music with a reference work.”

The hybrid instrument

“We have become specialists inf hybrid instrumentation: the possibility of interacting with electronics without the use of a large machinery, thus easily transportable. The instrument is internally equipped with a small loudspeaker with a micro-sensor on the bridge, the musician actuating the digital part with the aid of a pedal. We built all this from components acquired via the net. “This is explained in this video:

“Besides its portability, the advantage of this system is that the instrumentalist is at the closest to electronic broadcasting, which is much easier in terms of work. The relationship with electronics becomes a relationship of chamber music.


To my traditional question “I won the lottery and finance the project of your dreams”, the answer is immediate: To create a school of music in the way of El systema in Venezuela, for example at a regional level: it does not cost much; there was an experiment in Marseille where 10 000 instruments were acquired for 15 000 €. But political will is needed. Another will would be to pass orders directly to young composers.

Their main projects, after Royaumont, will be a tour in China with the program of the disc Shadows (Robin, Cendo, Bedrossian), in 2018 concerts in South America and USA, the creation of a new quartet by Régis Campo in 2018 and in 2019 a quartet by Philippe Hurel.
“And especially the premiere of a music festival in Lille “Versus”from 15 to 20 next December, which will take place in open places, with for example the second quartet of Feldman which lasts 5 hours.”
Let’s also mention the next release of their new CD “Volts”, but we will comment it soon as for the CD Shadows. Meanwhile, a concert version of the 3rd quartet “Shadows” by Yann Robin:

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