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Maureen NelsonKen Hamao, violins
Melissa Reardon
, viola
Richard Belcher
, cello

Founded at Yale University in 1999 and based in New York City since 2007, the Ensō String Quartet has, in a decade and a half, risen to the front rank of string ensembles. Praised by the Washington Post for its “glorious sonorities” and “smoldering power—half honey, half molten lava… full-throated dramatic intensity”, the Ensō has won numerous awards, including top prizes at the Concert Artists Guild competition and the Banff International String Quartet Competition. Apart from a busy touring and teaching schedule, the quartet has made a number of critically acclaimed recordings for the Naxos label. The Ensō’s members were all drawn to the string quartet repertoire because of its richness and diversity, and the ensemble regularly performs the string quartet classics, but also champions lesser-known works that deserve to be heard, along with much contemporary music, including works that it has commissioned. The ensemble also performs its own arrangements of 16th-century Renaissance music. World premières include commissioned works by the New Zealand composer Dame Gillian Whitehead, and by the American composer Kurt Stallmann. The Ensō also gave the world première of Joan Tower’s Piano Quintet, with the composer at the keyboard. Recent seasons have seen them perform in major concert halls across the USA such as Carnegie Hall, the Library of Congress and the Kennedy Center, as well as on tours of Canada, Central and South America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The Ensō was awarded the Guarneri String Quartet Award for Artistic Excellence by Chamber Music America. 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.

Enso Quartet
Photo: Juergen Frank

Role: Ensemble 
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Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group