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WQXR (New York), January 2015

The New York-based Ensō Quartet takes up an overlooked corner of the repertoire on its newest release: chamber music by 19th-century composers more famous for their operas. Richard Strauss’s Quartet in A Major, written when the composer was just 16, is immature in some ways, but it’s also full of passages of skillfully-wrought beauty and Haydn-esque charm. Puccini’s 1890 Chrysanthemums is another charmer, a brief elegy steeped in emotional intensity. Finally, Verdi’s Quartet in E minor, his only significant chamber work, and written at the age of 60, has much to offer, including some (unsurprisingly) theatrical gestures as well as a rare fugal passage. The Ensō plays these with a warm, effusive quality, that’s heightened by the recording’s fine acoustics. © 2015 WQXR (New York)

John Pitcher
American Record Guide, January 2015

The Ensō Quartet plays…with a beautifully blended sound and…heartrending sensitivity. © 2015 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Nick Barnard
MusicWeb International, December 2014

…this has to be the most elegant and simply beautiful performance I have heard of…[Strauss’ string quartet]. Much of the technical demand lies in the first violin part and here Maureen Nelson is quite superb: effortlessly lyrical and fluent.

Throughout, the poise of the playing, the refinement of the voicing of the parts and the subtle interplay of the musicians is a mini master-class in the art of quartet performance. The work is no masterpiece…but this performance makes the best possible case.

The Verdi quartet always comes as something of a surprise…[and] the Ensō Quartet…demonstrate yet again their remarkable unanimity in performance both technical and musical. In this performance the Ensō bring the work and indeed the disc to a rousingly impressive end. © 2014 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Terry Robbins
The WholeNote, December 2014

From the opening bars of the early Strauss String Quartet in A Major…it is clear why the ensemble has been garnering rave reviews for their CD releases; it’s beautifully rich, full-blooded and warm playing from the outset, and just perfect for the late Romantic nature of the music.

The quality of the recorded sound…is superb. © 2014 The WholeNote Read complete review

John Sheppard
MusicWeb International, November 2014

…this is a disc full of interesting and…lovable, music…certainly I look forward to further enjoying these entirely admirable performances of the Italian works. © 2014 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Mike Ashman
Gramophone, November 2014

The performances of the two main works (Strauss and Verdi) by this New York-based quartet are serious and straightforward…[the] shorter Puccini items, little tone-poems, are more lollipop-time and rightly treated as such… © 2014 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone, October 2014

All…[are] very well handled, with subtlety and a fine sense of style…and presented in sound that is clear, pure and bright. © 2014 Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2014

Three string quartets from composers better known in the world of opera makes for a most charming and enjoyable disc from the New York-based Enso Quartet. Richard Strauss was just seventeen when in 1881 he completed a score dedicated to his violin teacher, Benno Walter, the leader of the Munich Court Orchestra. In four conventional movements it has Beethoven and Brahms as its lineage, and has not one vestige of forward thinking that would point to an innovative composer of the future. That aside, it is a well crafted score with a charming scherzo that owes something to Mendelssohn in its elfin quality, and a very sad and sombre slow movement. By contrast the Puccini scores were already full of the lyric beauty that was to be his hallmark, and he was to think highly enough of them to recycle Crisentemi in the first of his famous operas, Manon Lescaut. There was no apparent reason why Verdi chose to compose a string quartet quite late in life, after he had completed many of his most famous operas. Neither would you readily guess the score had come from him, or any other major opera composer, its general quality more related to mainstream German chamber music of the time. Taken at face value it is a pleasing score, its oddity being a scherzo as the finale…this recording session could well have been their first sighting of the score. Elsewhere the playing is very good, and outstanding in the Puccini. © 2014 David’s Review Corner

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