Returning to the United States for the first time since May 2009, the Paris-based Ebène String Quartet opens its 2010 nine-city, North American tour Friday, Feb. 5 at Lawrence University as part of the college’s annual Artist Series. The quartet will perform a classical repertoire of Haydn, Brahms and Debussy at 8 p.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel.

Tickets, at $20-22 for adults, $17-19 for seniors and $15-17 for students, are available through the Lawrence Box Office, 420 E. College Ave., Appleton, 920-832-6749.

Founded in France in 1999, the quartet is best known in Europe, where they have played many of the most prestigious venues, including Berlin’s Philharmonic, London’s Wigmore Hall, Vienna’s Musikverein. Along with their performances of classical music, the quartet has a strong love of jazz, often incorporating jazz styles into their classical performances. Seen most clearly in their arrangement of the music from “Pulp Fiction,” the group is known for their creativity, teamwork, and adventurous spirit.

Samantha George, associate professor of violin at Lawrence and former long-time concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, says it’s the possibility of the unexpected that makes an Ebène String Quartet concert exciting.

“This group is notorious for being able to move between Haydn and jazz in the same concert and doing it all with eloquence, inspiration and honesty,” said George. “Their adaptability and versatility is inspiring. They are beautiful, accomplished musicians with a sense of whimsy and fun.”

London’s Daily Telegraph has hailed the Ebène String Quartet as “gifted…with something urgent and individual to communicate.”

The quartet’s most recent recording of Debussy, Ravel and Fauré received Gramophone’s coveted “Recording of the Year” as well as “Chamber Music Record of the Year” by ECHO-classik. A new disc, combining their interests in jazz and world music, is scheduled for release later this year.

Taking its name from ebony, the exotic wood used to make the fingerboards of stringed instruments, the quartet features Pierre Colombet and Gabriel Le Magadure on violin, Mathieu Herzog on viola and Raphaël Merlin on cello. Each member plays unique Italian instruments, including Merlin’s cello, which dates back to 1850 and once was owned by the famous French cellist and composer Paul Tortelier.