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Four strings, full spirit

Enso Quartet's concert promises richness, vitality

January 25, 2008|By Judah E. Adashi | Judah E. Adashi,special to the sun

In this primary season, politicians seeking to establish a broadly appealing, post-partisan identity might take their cue from ensembles such as the Enso String Quartet. Following a century in which the politics of musical style often dictated the aesthetic direction of composers and musicians, the Enso Quartet is among a growing number of chamber groups devoted not to any style or period, but simply to good music, superbly played.

Co-founded in 1999 at Yale University by violinist Maureen Nelson and cellist Richard Belcher, the Enso Quartet has since been joined by violinist John Marcus and violist Melissa Reardon. After winning the Concert Artists Guild International Competition and the Fischoff National Competition in 2003, the ensemble's reputation has risen steadily with residencies at Rice University and Tanglewood and appearances at the Phillips Collection, Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall.

At 7:30 p.m. tomorrow, the Enso Quartet brings a vibrant and diverse program to the Candlelight Concert Series at Wilde Lake Interfaith Center. The concert will begin with Ignaz Pleyel's String Quartet in B-flat, Op. 2, No. 5. A student of Joseph Haydn and a celebrated composer in his time, Pleyel is perhaps best known today for the French pianos that bear his name. The Enso Quartet has made a specialty of Pleyel's early works; the group's Naxos recording of his complete Op. 2 quartets shows this to be music of genuine charm and grace.

Fast-forwarding from 1784 to 2004, the program continues with Pierre Jalbert's Icefield Sonnets. In 2007, Jalbert received the prestigious Stoeger Award from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center for achievements in chamber music, and this fresh, dynamic piece leaves little doubt as to why. Jalbert uses luminous colors and propulsive rhythms to represent three poems by Anthony Hawley, titled "Cold is a cell," "Glass is a place," and "North is a notion."

The performance concludes with Robert Schumann's Piano Quintet in E-flat, Op. 44. Schumann famously composed in yearlong bouts devoted to particular genres. In 1842, he turned to chamber music, completing six major pieces in rapid succession: three string quartets, a piano trio, a piano quartet and the piano quintet, a work of lyrical urgency held by many to be Schumann's most significant contribution to the chamber repertory.

Clara Schumann and Felix Mendelssohn, both formidable musicians, handled the keyboard duties for the initial performances of Schumann's Quintet. For tomorrow's performance, the Enso Quartet will be joined by pianist Joel Fan, an impressive artist in his own right. Fan is an alumnus of Leon Fleisher's studio at Peabody, and a member of Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble.

According to the group's Web site, the Enso Quartet takes its name from a Zen symbol, a painted circle that represents, among other things, "the fullness of the spirit." This ineffable quality is aptly embodied not only by the vitality of the group's playing, but by the richness of a program that spans three centuries and features two less familiar composers whose music deserves a wider audience. Concertgoers can expect the ensemble to honor the meaning of its name, providing them with a generous and deeply satisfying musical experience.

Tickets are $29 for adults, $26 for senior citizens (60 and older), and $12 for full-time students younger than 24. Information: 443-367-3122, or www.candlelightconcerts.org. Or e-mail info@candlelightconcerts.org.

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