Born in 1988 in Toulouse, Marie Chilemme studied at the Conservatoire de Paris and at the Hochschule Hanns Eisler in Berlin before founding in 2012 the Quatuor Cavatine. Since 2017, she has been the viola player in the Quatuor Ébène.Marie Chilemme

Marie Chilemme © Natacha Colmez Photographie
Marie Chilemme
© Natacha Colmez Photographie

What is your idea of chamber music heaven?

Being able to understand each other every second, without talking, and so being able to understand each other both as musicians and as people.

Of what kinds of errors are you the most tolerant?

Wrong notes!

What makes an ideal partner in quartet?

Their passion.

What's your most notable characteristic when you're playing?

It’s the flexibility. I want the musicians I play with to feel good, to be able to perform comfortably. That’s why I make sure that I can understand them, anticipate their wishes, follow them to the best of my abilities… For this, you need to be flexible both with your instrument and with your mind!

What's your greatest defect?

My playing is sometimes too smooth, it doesn’t have enough bite… In life, however, I bite back when attacked!

What's your favourite occupation (when you're not playing viola, of course)?

Cooking, being with my family or with my friends.

If you could be any person in the history of music, who would you wish to have been?

Maria Callas. I dreamed of being an opera singer, performing and singing on stage! Or Clara Schumann – because of her close relationship with Johannes Brahms…

What is your favourite quartet (or individual quartet movement)?

The String Quartet Op.51 no. 2 by Brahms… or some movements by Beethoven: the Cavatina and the “Poco scherzoso” from Op.130, the slow movement from Op.59 no. 1.

What has been your most beautiful concert?

As a listener, the Esperanza Spalding concert at the Trianon, in Paris, in 2012: what groove and what class, I am a big fan!

As a performer, I would say my first concert with the Quatuor Ébène in 2017, in Tokyo. I was replacing Adrien Boisseau who was injured: I tried not to feel too much under pressure, it was only for the tour… Except that, as I found out afterwards, that night my colleagues had decided to ask me to remain with them in the quartet! So that moment represents a mixture of great joy in us four discovering each other in concert, stage fright for Fauré’s Quartet Op.121 (which I had never played before) and emotion for Mozart’s Quartet K421, which I had often played passionately with my Quatuor Cavatine.

Quatuor Ébène © Julien Mignot
Quatuor Ébène
© Julien Mignot

What has been your greatest musical disappointment?

Feeling stage fright at Wigmore Hall in London the past December. I was very disappointed that I was unable to fully enjoy the concert! And not having managed to pass the Konzertexam in Berlin to keep studying with Tabea Zimmermann…. My two years of Master’s degree in her class have gone so fast that I would have loved to be able to keep going for at least another five years!

If you were to be reincarnated as a musical instrument (not a viola), which would you choose?

The cello!

What's your violist's motto?

Listen and anticipate! One for all!


Translated from French by Laura Volpi.