Cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras has an unusually broad repertory that stretches from the Baroque to the contemporary era, from concertos to chamber music to works for solo cello. A member for a time of the Ensemble InterContemporain directed by avant-garde composer and conductor Pierre Boulez, Queyras has performed several major world premieres.
Queyras was born in Montreal on March 11, 1967. Part of his childhood was spent in Algeria, which was unusual since this period postdated Algeria's independence from France after a bloody independence war. Queyras' family ultimately moved to France, where Queyras took cello lessons. He studied at various institutions, including the Musikhochschule Freiburg in Germany and the Mannes College of Music in New York before coming under the influence of Boulez and joining his famous contemporary music ensemble. Queyras' recording career began in 1994, thanks to his presence in the Boulez orbit, when he was heard on a Deutsche Grammophon recording featuring various concertos by György Ligeti, conducted by Boulez. His next recording came in 1998 on the Harmonia Mundi label; it featured the Three Suites for Solo Violoncello of Benjamin Britten. Queyras has often performed music for solo cello, including the unaccompanied cello suites of J.S. Bach.
Honored with the 2002 City of Toronto Glenn Gould International Protégé Prize in music, Queyras began to land major concerto bookings with orchestras internationally. He is one of the few cellists to excel on both modern and period instruments, and he often performs and records with the historically oriented Freiburg Baroque Orchestra. He may be best known for his advocacy of contemporary music, which has included world premieres of works by Ivan Fedele, Gilbert Amy (in Tokyo's Suntory hall), and Bruno Mantovani, among others. He has also championed the music of Anton Webern, Luigi Dallapiccola, and György Kurtág, as well as Ligeti. Queyras is an enthusiastic chamber music player whose collaborators include the Arcanto String Quartet, flutist Emmanuel Pahud, and pianist Alexander Melnikov.
Queyras' discography is large and includes releases on the BIS and Erato labels as well as Harmonia Mundi (which is home to the majority). He has recorded mainstream works by Brahms, Elgar, and Dvořák as well as contemporary and Baroque works. In 2020, Queyras and pianist Alexandre Tharaud released Complices, a program of brief transcriptions conceptualized as short stories. Queyras teaches at the Musikhochschule Freiburg and is an artistic director at the Rencontres Musicales de Haute Provence music festival.