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Ensō String Quartet



Applauded in The Strad for "its totally committed, imaginative interpretation that emphasized contrasts of mood, dynamics and articulation" and The Ann Arbor News for "crisp, incisive playing-with just the right quotient of sass," the Ensō String Quartet is quickly becoming one of America's leading young ensembles. In spring 2003, the quartet was a winner of the Concert Artists Guild International Competition, and they also earned top prizes at Chamber Music Yellow Springs (OH) Competition and the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition that same year. In September 2004, the Ensō Quartet was awarded second prize and the Pièce de concert prize at the Eighth Banff International String Quartet Competition, and the following month, the ensemble was featured in a national broadcast of American Public Media's long-running program Saint Paul Sunday.

Highlights of 2004-05 engagements are the Jose Iturbi Gold Medal Series in Cerritos, CA, Chicago's Music in the Loft series, Market Square Concerts, Brooklyn Friends of Chamber Music, Newtown (CT) Friends of Music, and the Berrie Center of New Jersey, among others. This follows a busy summer 2004, including performances at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theatre, the Chautauqua Institution and the Green Lake Festival (WI), and international engagements featuring the Asociacion Nacional de Conciertos Panama, the Tuckamore Festival in St. John's, Newfoundland, as well as a 2-week residency at France's Académie européenne de musique d'Aix-en-Provence.

Recent featured concerts include the ensemble's New York debut at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, as well as Merkin Concert Hall, St. Vincent College, Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society, Jefferson Academy of Music at Ohio State University, the Bedford (NY) Chamber Music Series and the Tri-Institutional Noon Recitals Series at the Rockefeller University (the last two with pianist Anthony Newman). In February 2004, the ensemble recorded all six string quartets, Op. 2, of Ignaz Pleyel, which will be released on two CD's by the Naxos label in Spring 2005.

The Ensō String Quartet has performed throughout the United States and abroad since its inception in 1999, including featured appearances at such music festivals as La Jolla SummerFest and the Great Lakes Music Festival. Other highlights from previous seasons include appearances on the Mostly Music and the Dame Myra Hess Series of Chicago, the Syzygy: New Music at Rice Series in Houston, and a concerto with the Rockford Symphony Orchestra and with the Champaign Urbana Symphony at the Krannert Center for Performing Arts. Internationally, the quartet has toured Costa Rica as guest artists in the Twelfth International Costa Rica Music Festival, and they have also performed in England and Canada, where the group was a Finalist in the Banff Seventh International Quartet Competition.

Having completed a successful two-year tenure as graduate Quartet-in-Residence at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in spring 2004, the Ensō Quartet was invited by Rice to stay on for one additional season as Guest Quartet in Residence for 2004-05. The ensemble has also held a graduate residency at Northern Illinois University, where the group was mentored by the Vermeer Quartet. Recently, the group held a winter residency at the Britten-Pears Young Artists Programme in Aldeburgh, England. In addition to extensive residency work at the university level, the quartet is committed to bringing classical music to the community, and offers numerous programs geared for children that emphasize interaction between audience and the quartet. Most recently, the ensemble brought their educational programs to Mark O'Connor's Fiddle Camp in California and to thousands of children and teachers in schools throughout Illinois under the auspices of the Chicago-based International Music Foundation. In addition, the group performs extensively in Texas schools under the auspices of the Houston Friends of Music.

The Ensō String Quartet draws together four young musicians from around the world. Its members hold degrees from The Juilliard School, Curtis Institute of Music, Royal Northern College of Music (UK) and the University of Canterbury (New Zealand). The members of the ensemble met while pursuing graduate degrees at Yale University, where they later worked with the Tokyo String Quartet. Other prominent musicians with whom the group has worked include members of the Cleveland, Alban Berg, and Takacs quartets, Joseph Silverstein and composer Joan Tower. The quartet has been featured in Chamber Music Magazine's 'American Ensembles' column, and their performances have been broadcast on PBS, Chicago's WFMT, Wisconsin Public Radio and Canada's CBC radio.

The ensemble's name, ensō, 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.