The Labèque sisters, Katia (born 11 March 1950) and Marielle (born 6 March 1952), are an internationally known French piano duo.
Education and first performances:
Katia and Marielle were born in Bayonne, on the southwest coast of France near the Spanish border (Northern Basque Country). Their father was a doctor, rugby football player and music lover. He sang in the Bordeaux Opera choir. The sisters' first teacher was their Italian mother, Ada Cecchi (a former student of Marguerite Long), who began lessons when her daughters were three and five years of age. Upon graduation in piano from the Conservatoire de Paris in 1968, the two began working on piano four hands and two pianos repertoire. They recorded their first album Les Visions de l'Amen of Olivier Messiaen under the artistic direction of the composer himself. They then undertook performance of contemporary music, performing works by Luciano Berio,Pierre Boulez, Philippe Boesmans, György Ligeti and Olivier Messiaen.
While some degree of recognition came with this performance repertoire, true celebrity arrived when their 1980 two-piano recording of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue sold over a half million copies. Beyond the traditional classical repertoire, their repertoire extends contemporary classical music, jazz, ragtime, flamenco, minimal music, baroque music on period instruments, and even pop music and experimental rock.
They discovered baroque music with Marco Postinghel and commissioned the construction of two Silberman fortepianos in 1998. They played these instruments with Il Giardino Armonico conducted by Giovanni Antonini, Musica Antiqua Köln conducted by Reinhard Goebel (Johann Sebastian Bach commemoration year in 2000), the English Baroque Soloists conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner, the Venice Baroque Orchestra conducted by Andrea Marcon, and with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.
Throughout their career, Marielle and Katia Labèque have performed with the most famous orchestras in the world (Berlin Philharmonic,Munich Philharmonic,Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestra della Scala, Vienna Philharmonic,Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra,Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic,Philadelphia Orchestra) with prestigious conductors (Semyon Bychkov, Sir Colin Davis, Charles Dutoit, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Paavo Järvi, Kristjan Jarvi, Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa, Antonio Pappano, Georges Pretre, Sir Simon Rattle,Esa-Pekka Salonen,Leonard Slatkin and Michael Tilson Thomas), in the main venues dedicated to classical music: Musikverein (Vienna),Laeiszhalle (Hamburg), Gasteig (Munich), Carnegie Hall (New York),Royal Festival Hall (London), La Scala (Milan), Berliner Philharmonie (Berlin), Disney Hall (Los Angeles), Hollywood Bowl (Hollywood), and in famous festivals such as Mostly Mozart Festival (New York), Ravinia Festival (Chicago), Tanglewood Music Festival (Lenox), The Proms (London),Lucerne Festival (Switzerland), Klavier Festival Ruhr (Germany), and Salzburg Festival (Austria).
They performed for 33,000 people at the Waldbühne gala concert, the last concert of the 2005 season of the Berlin Philharmonic.
Many works have been written especially for them, such as "Linea" for two pianos and percussion by Luciano Berio, "Water Dances" for two pianos by Michael Nyman, "Battlefield" for two pianos and orchestra by Richard Dubugnon, "Nazareno" for two pianos, percussion and orchestra by Osvaldo Golijov and Gonzalo Grau, "The Hague Hacking" for two pianos and orchestra by Louis Andriessen, and "Capriccio" by Philippe Boesmans.
Katia and Marielle have expanded the repertoire for two pianos and percussion with creative works, such as the first instrumental version of West Side Story, transcribed by Irwin Kostal (orchestrator of the original musical), and the version for two pianos and basque percussions of Maurice Ravel's Boléro with the trio Kalakan. They premiered "Four Movements" for two pianos by Philip Glass in France, England, Italy and Cuba. In November 2011, They premiered the project "50 Years of Minimalism" at Kings Place (London) with works of John Cage, David Chalmin, William Duckworth,Arvo Pärt, Michael Nyman, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Howard Skempton, Nicola Tescari, etc.
Between 1970 and 1997, they recorded many albums for Erato (Warner Classics), Philips Records, EMI Classics, Sony Music Entertainment, and Decca Records. They then ceased recording for 10 years before creating their own classical music label KML Recordings in 2007 in Italy. Beyond their own records, they produce young bands and musicians of different musical backgrounds, such as experimental rock (B for Bang DimensionX, Dream House, Red Velvet) and traditional music (Mayte Martin, Kalakan). For example they produced the first album by Kalakan with whom they have worked since 2009 and they introduced them to their friend Madonna in 2011. After this meeting, the trio participated in her MDNA Tour in 2012)
They also created their own foundation in 2005 "Fondazione Katia é Marielle Labeque" in Rome, Italy, with the goals of promoting the relationship between music and image, commissioning new works for two pianos, and supporting experimental music groups. Their first project in 2009 supported the young filmmaker Tal Rosner.
In 2012, they created their own recording studio called "Studio KML", in an ancient school in Rome as a meeting point between all the musicians of their Foundation and the KML Recordings label. Their first recording in this place was the "Minimalist Dream House".
Katia Labèque's boyfriend is David Chalmin, composer, producer and singer/guitarist of the band Red Velvet. She was formerly married to English guitarist John Mc Laughlin and she was also a member of his band in the early 1980s. Marielle Labèque is married to the conductor Semyon Bychkov. The sisters still live together; they moved to London in 1987, to a palace in Florence in 1993, and since 2005 they have lived in a palace that belonged to the Borgia family of Rome.