Enso String Quartet: Exhilarating all round

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

by Marian Poole, Otago Daily Times

An exciting programme was brilliantly played before a larger than usual Chamber Music New Zealand audience at the Regent Theatre on Monday night.

Exciting because the Enso Quartet is renowned for its interpretations of Ginastera and because it had a commissioned work from Gillian Whitehead.

Ginastera’s String Quartet No 1 Opus 20 draws upon his Argentinian background, highlighting the macho gaucho and the open pampas through an array of complex rhythms. It steers clear of overtly nationalistic sounds. Of special delight was the third movement, “Calmo e poetico”, where single notes carried so much potent.

Whitehead’s No Stars, not even clouds seems an equally personal work. It evokes a midnight world of screeching birdcalls, tidal ripples, loneliness and anger lovingly couched in searching lines. An unbroken stream of consciousness, it is nonetheless clearly formed in three sections or lights. It quickly enwraps the audience in its world and leaves them before they are ready to leave it.

The Enso Quartet delivered both works with extraordinarily sensitive ensemble work. Each player is perfectly attuned to the others’ cadence, questioning and answering phrase.

Equally well performed were the opening and closing works of the evening.

Boccherini’s String Quartet in G minor Opus 32 No 5 seems and exercise in understatement, and in the hands of Enso becomes a demure dance, charming but with hidden depths. Michael Endres joined Enso for the final Dvorak’s Piano Quintet in A Opus 81. The ensemble danced through it with new energy. Endres’ light replies to the viola’s lament were a special delight in the second movement, “Dumkas”. The dance in the midst of the lament was taken at a sprightly pace yet did not lose relevance.

An uplifting performance of equally uplifting works.