The Enso String Quartet, violinists Maureen Nelson and John Marcus, violist Stephanie Fong and cellist Richard Belcher, with their Grammy nomination for the recording of the Ginastera String Quartets, is an ensemble of high repute. The reason for this was abundantly clear in the performance of Ginastera's String Quartet No1.
This is exciting music to hear and must be exhilarating to perform - the players generated the full impact of the cross rhythms in music inspired by the wide and wild expanse of the Argentine pampas and the powerful energy of the dance. It was all there - from the strong melody of the cello at the start, the rhythmic force of the lower half bow strokes and the sparkle of the pizzicato sections. The ensemble was tightly knit, the slow movement deeply expressive and the raw energy of the coda of the fourth movement brought the performance to a stunning conclusion.
Piano quartets are also exciting with the strong contrasts of piano and strings and none more so than Dvorak's Piano Quintet in A when the ensemble was joined by pianist Michael Endres, head of piano studies at the University of Canterbury. The powerful rhythmic impetus and folk music elements were projected brilliantly in a superbly balanced performance where the interplay between strings and piano was maintained expertly in playing of technical freedom and polished musicianship. The stunning ending of the first movement, the fleetness and excitement of the Furiant and the sense of climax generated at the Finale, were all special moments.
The commissioned work by New Zealand composer Gillian Whitehead, No stars, not even clouds, had immediate appeal. This was a convincing performance where the natural motifs were integrated in expressive and well-balanced playing.
The concert began with the String Quartet in G Minor by Haydn's contemporary, Italian Boccherini. The classical style of the music was always evident, though some of the detail in the upper strings at the start was not always clearly defined. The best playing came in the final movements, especially in the extended cadenza played by the leader in the Capriccio Finale.
Final Chamber Music New Zealand 2012 Kaleidoscopes Concert. Enso String Quartet with pianist Michael Endres.
Music by Boccherini, Ginastera, Gillian Whitehead and Dvorak.
Napier Municipal Theatre, Wednesday, October 31.