About the ensemble

Praised for their “insightful, committed and masterful performances 10/10 ” (July 2019, Classics Today) and their “fierce eloquence” (September 2019, The Times, London), the Black Oak Ensemble is establishing itself as one of the premier chamber ensembles in the United States.

The Black Oak Ensemble comprises Grammy-nominated violinist Desirée Ruhstrat, cellist David Cunliffe of the acclaimed Lincoln Trio, and violist Aurélien Fort Pederzoli, a founding member of the groundbreaking Grammy-nominated Spektral Quartet. The Black Oak Ensemble enthusiastically collaborates with world-class guest artists, including pianists, flutists, guitarists, a bandonéon player, and more

Last season, the ensemble’s debut album, Silenced Voices―a deeply personal program dedicated to mid-20th Century Jewish composers, most of whom lost their lives during the Holocaust―was released on Cedille Records; it went on to be featured by Gramophone Magazine, Strings Magazine, and BBC Radio 3. The ensemble was recently featured live from New York by The Violin Channel, and had an appearance on Sirius XM.

“Beyond its exceptional musical ability, the Black Oak Ensemble must be applauded for its decision to dedicate its resources and talent to the presentation of fine music by composers who had their own talents stolen.”

Limelight, 2019

The project-based Black Oak Ensemble presents exciting programs from Bach to the music of today and has collaborated with musicians such as bandoneon player Evan Orman, guitarists Goran Ivanovic and José Ferreira, harpsichordist Jory Vinikour, members of Eighth Blackbird, and the Cavatina Duo. As passionate advocate of new works, they have commissioned and premiered string trios from renowned composers such as Michael Nyman, David Ludwig, Misha Zupko, and Conrad Tao, and discovered works by Dick Kattenburg and Geza Fríd.

Black Oak performs regularly in recitals and festivals throughout the world. Their recent tour throughout Europe included performances in Amsterdam, Athens, Geneva, Grenoble, Lyon, Paris,  Prague , Rennes, and Yverdon, and many of their performances were to standing-room-only audiences. Other appearances include Ravinia Festival, the Chicago Cultural Center, Art Institute of Chicago, Latino Music Festival, Mayne Stage, WFMT, Grand Rapids Museum of Art, Communauté Juive de Nancy, Le Festival du film Juif de Paris, Everlasting Hope festival in Theresienstadt, L’Alhambra in Vittel, and a special performance in Corsica.

There is no faulting this debut album by the Chicago-based Black Oak Ensemble: rhythmically tight and, like the best trio recording, conveying a sense of a fuller ensemble.

The Strad, December 2019

The Black Oak Ensemble put down roots in the south of France, creating Musique Dans Le Gers, a music festival that provides an opportunity to work with young artists and share their experiences and music with the community.

As dedicated educators, Black Oak has held residencies at Eau Claire University, St. John’s School for the Arts (USVI), Arizona State University, the New Music School, and Safford Arizona. Currently they serve as Ensemble-in-Residence at the New Music School in Chicago.

The ensemble is named for the black oak, a beautiful tree native to its home state of Illinois. One stands in the front yard of Desirée Ruhstrat and David Cunliffe’s house.