Cello group debuts album, scores game

February 1, 2013
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“Classical music is not just serious or stuffy,” said Jamaica Plain resident Blaise Déjardin, explaining the premise of his chamber music group the Boston Cello Quartet, which releases its debut album on Feb. 5.

The quartet lives up to that mission, mixing unique arrangements of classical pieces with jazz, blues and other curveballs. The group also performed the score for last year’s successful video game “Of Orcs and Men.”

Déjardin and his partners in the quartet—Adam Esbensen, Mihail Jojatu and Alexandre Lecarme—are all members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Déjardin also was a founding member of A Far Cry, the acclaimed local orchestra based on South Street.

The quartet formed in 2010 in part from the natural bonding in the symphony’s string section, as well as from the fact that three of the members auditioned together and joined the BSO at the same time.

The idea for an all-cello group came easily because of the instrument’s flexibility.

“In the string section, it’s the instrument with the most range,” Déjardin said, explaining that it can play virtually any sound or style.

Such flexibility is good at a time when classical music is working out its place in the modern world, he said.

“More and more, it’s trying to do its own thing,” he said of classical music.

That variety is on display in the quartet’s forthcoming album, “Pictures.” About half of the album features the group’s unique arrangements of classical works. Also in the mix are a newly composed jazz piece and a medley written by Déjardin that includes the James Bond movie theme. The cover art shows the group striding through a Boston crosswalk in a nod to the Beatles’ “Abbey Road.”

He said the quartet likes to close its live shows with some “comedy”—often a musical surprise such as a blues harmonica piece.

The quartet enjoys eclectic gigs as well. In 2011 at Tanglewood, the quartet was an opening act for the Grammy-winning rock band Train.

“We were skeptical” of the gig, Déjardin said. “But the audience loved it.”

Scoring “Of Orcs and Men,” a gritty tale of oppressed races warring against slavery and genocide, was another unusual gig. Olivier Derivière, an acclaimed video game composer, knows quartet member Jojatu and asked the group to perform his score for the game. The game and the soundtrack album were released last year.

“He wrote the music specifically for us,” said Déjardin.

With tracks bearing such titles as “A Knight to Kill Me” and “I Hate This Place,” the game score was a very different style for the quartet.

“We had to be kind of brutal and dark,” Déjardin said, adding that he has yet to play the game himself.

As a companion to the quartet’s performances, Déjardin just this year founded Opus Cello, an online sheet music company to publish his arrangements.

An early album release party for “Pictures” is slated for tonight, Feb. 1, at the Hotel Revere downtown. The Boston Cello Quartet also will perform in Newton on Feb. 10. For more information, see bostoncelloquartet.com.