In 1989, after his first year of cello, he asked his parents for piano lessons. A love of polyphony and improvisation was born from this which would naturally lead to jazz and to his first composition. Continuing his training at the CNR in Clermont, he sometimes escaped to accompany a choir on the guitar, to write some songs, to join a big-band, or to establish a jazz quartet...A few composition contests later, with his first conservatory diplomas already under his belt by the age of 15, he moved to Paris where he caught the bug for orchestral conducting. Lessons from Igor Kiritchenko, Xavier Gagnepain and Philippe Müller for the cello, Hortense Cartier-Bresson for chamber music, Janos Komives for orchestral conducting trained him in interpretation and he finished his studies in 2005 at the CNSM in Paris, with an advanced education diploma with honours, unanimously.
Chamber music, initially practised with the family, occupies a central part in his work today, in particular since 2002 when he joined the Ebène Quartet, composed of Pierre Colombet, Gabriel Le Magadure and Mathieu Herzog; 1st prize in 2004 in the international ARD competition in Munich. He therefore counts Nicholas Angelich, Akiko Yamamoto, Frank Braley, Renaud Capuçon, Antoine Tamestit, Gary Hoffman, Jérôme Pernoo, Paul Meyer and Michel Portal amongst his partners. Today the Ebène Quartet performs at the greatest concert halls in the world: the Berlin Philharmonic, Wigmore Hall in London, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Tonhalle in Zürich, the Library of Congress in Washington, Carnegie Hall in New York, the Châtelet and Champs-Elysées theatres in Paris…and receives counsel from Gabor Takacs, Eberhard Feltz, Gyorgy Kurtag and Pierre-Laurent Aimard. Two discs, devoted to Haydn and Bartok, were successfully produced by Mirare, before the quartet signed an exclusive deal with Virgin Classics: the first album, Debussy-Fauré-Ravel, which came out in October 2008, received praise from both the national and international press.
Raphaël Merlin also performs as a solo artist with the Tchaïkovski conservatory orchestra in Moscow, the Massy orchestra. He produces arrangements (classical, jazz, tango, traditional music…). From 1997 to 2002 he was the pianist in the Wildflower Quartet (jazz); He also plays duets with the guitarist Kevin Seddiki, and devotes himself completely to eclectic projects (Festival “The Musical Chairs”, in Poitou-Charentes). He is an occasional member of the Contraste Ensemble alongside Arnaud Thorette and Johan Farjot; he recorded the trio op. 114 by Brahms (Accord-Universal), the Philippe Hersant’s trio (Triton), and a tango album, “Café 1930” (Zig-Zag Territories).
In his role as head of orchestra he conducted the orchestra of the Racine Lycée, the Sérénade Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Conservatory laureates, he founded the chamber orchestra Opus 93 and “Le Petit Lion”, the Saint-Cosme spring musical orchestra, for which he provides musical direction.
The son of a French teacher, passionate about teaching since he met Xavier Gagnepain, he maintains lasting links with his former and current pupils and gives musical master classes in chamber music at the academies in the Lake District in England, in Sabinanigo, at the CNR in Reims and at the university of Stuttgart…The musicians which have influenced him most are Mozart, Schumann, Beethoven, Prokoviev, Shostakovitch, Bill Evans, Brahms, W.Shorter, H.Hancock, M.Davis, Fauré, R.Strauss, Ravel, Piazzola, Dutilleux, Debussy, Brad Mehldau, Ligeti.