MELISSA REARDON, viola RICHARD BELCHER, cello MAUREEN NELSON, violin KEN HAMAO, violin
Founded at Yale University in 1999, the Enso String Quartet has, in a decade and a half, risen to the front rank of string ensembles. Described by Strad magazine as “thrilling,” and praised by the Washington Post for its “glorious sonorities,” the Enso has won numerous awards, including top prizes at the Concert Artists Guild competition and the Banff International String Quartet Competition. In the words of Classical Voice, it is “one of the eminent string quartets of our era.” Apart from a busy touring and teaching schedule, the New York-based quartet has made a number of critically acclaimed recordings for the Naxos label. In appraising the Enso’s Grammy-nominated album of works by Alberto Ginastera, the reviewer for MusicWeb International declared, “The performances here by the Enso Quartet from America are quite staggeringly brilliant. I don’t think I have been so thrilled by the sound of a string quartet in a long time.... If I could give this disc a standing ovation of one...I would!”
The Enso’s members all were drawn to the string quartet repertoire because of its richness and diversity, and the ensemble is committed to exploring the four corners of that repertoire. The Enso regularly performs the classics of the string quartet literature, but also champions lesser-known works that deserve to be heard, along with much contemporary music, including works the Enso has commissioned. The ensemble also performs many of its own transcriptions, including arrangements of 16th Century Renaissance music. “The quartet’s ability to present music of three completely different idioms so persuasively puts it in the running for the mantle of Quartet of the Future” (Palm Beach ArtsPaper). World premieres include commissioned works by the esteemed New Zealand composer Dame Gillian Whitehead, and by the American composer Kurt Stallmann. The Enso also gave the world premiere of Joan Tower’s Piano Quintet, with the composer at the keyboard.
In addition to their in-demand performances at concert halls around the world, the Enso and its individual members are sought after as instructors. The ensemble gives master classes for the next generation of professional musicians, but also works with enthusiastic amateurs, young and old, and with the autistic, in conjunction with the United Kingdom-based organization Music for Autism. The Enso has been awarded for its work with schoolchildren in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Based in New York City since 2007, the Enso String Quartet was previously in residence at Rice University in Houston, Texas, and at Northern Illinois University, in DeKalb, Illinois.
During the summer of 2013, the ensemble made debut appearances in Brazil, at the Festival Internacional de Inverno de Campos do Jordão, and in Mexico, at the San Miguel de Allende Festival Internacional de Musica de Camera. The 2013-14 season will include debuts at the Kennedy Center, and at Seattle’s Town Hall. In 2013, the ensemble continued its artist residency at Interlochen, and will return to Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music in Houston for a residency in 2014. The Enso’s fourth recording for the Naxos label – featuring the quartets of Puccini, Verdi and Richard Strauss – is slated for release in Fall 2014.
The ensemble’s name is derived from the Japanese Zen painting of the circle, which represents many things: perfection and imperfection, the moment of chaos that is creation, the emptiness of the void, the endless circle of life, and the fullness of the spirit.