Japanese cellist Yuya Okamoto replaces Raphaël Merlin, who leaves the group after nearly 25 years


The Ébène Quartet: Pierre Colombet, Gabriel Le Magadure, Marie Chilemme and Yuya Okamoto © Julien Mignot

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The Ébène Quartet has announced the appointment of Yuya Okamoto as its new cellist, following the departure of Raphaël Merlin. Merlin has played with the ensemble for almost 25 years and leaves to pursue other musical opportunities.

‘We are delighted and proud to welcome Yuya Okamoto in the Ebène Quartet,’ the ensemble wrote on social media. ‘He is not only an extraordinary musician, but also brings a lot of happiness to our group. Yuya, we look forward to many joyful, exciting, and ambitious musical encounters with you!’


Okamoto was born in Tokyo in 1994 and began cello lessons at the age of six. He studied at the Faculty of Music of Tokyo University of the Arts (Geidai) under Nobuko Yamazaki and later at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Munich under Wen-Sinn Yang until 2017. Since then he has been studying with Julian Steckel.

His numerous competition successes include second prize at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in 2017, ‘Honorable Mention’ at the Witold Lutosławski International Cello Competition in 2015, first prize in the Music Competition of Japan in 2011 and the ‘Diploma of Merit’ at the Gaspar Cassado International Competition in Tokyo in 2009. 

He has performed as a soloist with many Japanese ensembles, including the Ensemble of Tokyo, the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. In January 2024, Okamoto performed as tour soloist on the Japan tour of the Prague Symphony Orchestra conducted by Tomáš Brauner. He has performed as a guest cellist with the Ébène Quartet since summer 2023.

Okamoto performs on a cello made by Giovanni Grancino, Milan, from 1682.

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