One of its generations most compelling string ensembles, the Grammy-nominated Enso String Quartet has risen to the front rank of chamber music performers. Founded at Yale University in 1999, the quartet has been described by Strad magazine as “thrilling,” and praised by the Washington Post for its “glorious sonorities.” The quartet quickly went on to win 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.”
In 2015-16, the Enso String Quartet toured from coast to coast in the U.S. with concerts in many of the country’s most prestigious venues such as Washington DC’s Kennedy Center and New York’s Lincoln Center, as well as in California for the Coleman Chamber Music Association. International tours this season take the quartet to Colombia, Brazil, and a 25-city, 30-concert tour of Australia and New Zealand. Frequent guests at many summer festivals, this past summer Enso String Quartet performed at festivals in North and South Carolina, Connecticut, California, Michigan, Virginia, Minnesota and New York. Sought after as teachers and coaches, in 2015 the quartet started their own highly successful Enso Chamber Music Workshop for advanced students and young professional musicians at Music Mountain in Connecticut.
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 album of works by Alberto Ginastera, 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!” Of the group’s recording of Strauss, Puccini and Verdi, the American Record Guide wrote that “The Enso Quartet plays...with a beautifully blended sound and...heartrending sensitivity.” Gramophone described their album of the two Piano Quintets by Dohnanyi as “performances that are astutely musical and very well executed...about as good as it gets...all-round musical excellence."
The Enso’s members are all 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 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 this season include commissioned works by New Zealander Alex Taylor and Australian Brenton Broadstock, and in recent seasons they have premiered quartets written for them by Dame Gillian Whitehead, Kurt Stallmann and Paul Moravec. The Enso also gave the world premiere of Joan Tower’s Dumbarton Quintet, with the composer at the keyboard.
The Enso and its individual members are sought after as instructors. The ensemble gives master classes for the next generation of professional musicians, and 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 has held residency positions at Rice University in Houston, Texas, with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in Minnesota, and at Northern Illinois University, in DeKalb, Illinois.
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.