Ralf Ehlers started playing the viola at age 12, in his home town of São Paulo, Brazil. Six years later he won the 1989 international competition Sul América and went on to give recitals across South America and to play concertos with some Brazil’s leading orchestras.
Ralf continued his studies in Detmold, Germany, with Nobuko Imai, and at the Salzburg Mozarteum in Austria with Thomas Riebl, where he discovered his passion for chamber music. A founding member of the Pulcinella Quartet, Ralf later moved to England, where he was a member of groups as diverse as the Raphael Ensemble, the Solomon Ensemble, and Configure8. Other chamber music partners have included Steven Isserlis, Gabor Takacs, the Emperor String Quartet and the New Zealand String Quartet.
Ralf has cultivated a particular interest in the works of living composers. In 1997, he gave the European premiere of George Benjamin’s Viola Viola with Garth Knox. He has also worked with many contemporary ensembles including the Austrian Ensemble for New Music, the London Sinfonietta, Musikfabrik, and Ensemble Modern in Frankfurt, with whom he performed Brian Ferneyhough’s Incipits for viola and ensemble at the Salzburg Festival in 2005.
In 2003, Ralf was given the opportunity to combine his two passions – chamber music and contemporary music – by joining the Arditti Quartet. He has since performed with his quartet in most of the world’s major concert halls, and with many of the leading orchestras of today.
The Quartet’s schedule permitting, Ralf also enjoys playing within different musical frameworks. More recently, he featured as a soloist with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for some performances of ‘Harold in Italy’ by Berlioz, and taught master classes which culminated in a recital of solo works – some of which were written for him – in the ‘International Symposium for Contemporary Music’ in Curitiba, Brazil.
Ralf plays on a viola which he made himself in 2005.