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-- Steve Kiviat
Enso String Quartet
Every year, the Library of Congress lends its collection of Stradivariuses to some lucky string players for a concert on the famed instrument maker's death date, Dec. 18. The potential perils of accepting this offer surfaced immediately Monday night, when the Enso String Quartet's first violinist, Maureen Nelson, lost some notes to the whim of the temperamental "Betts" violin in the very first phrase of Mozart's String Quartet in D Minor, K. 421. Happily, the benefits of borrowing the Strads became clear soon after, as the Enso players filled the Coolidge Auditorium with glorious sonorities, whatever they were playing.
After a somewhat tentative first movement, the Enso pushed the tempo in the Mozart quartet's slow movement too much, making its repeated phrases sound perfunctory. But the minuet and finale cannily balanced bite and grace, as the Enso expertly managed the buildup of tension in the quartet's final pages.
Alberto Ginastera's String Quartet No. 2, Op. 26, received a thrillingly athletic performance, with chords that came in rough packs and solid waves, a quiet roller coaster of notes in the "Presto Magico" movement, aching solos from violist Melissa Reardon in rare moments of repose, and a perpetual-motion "Furioso" finale that never let up.
Though the quartet played Antonin Dvorak's String Quartet in E-flat, Op. 51, with impeccable ardor, their inflections of the melodies and rhythms never felt distinctly Czech, making the dumka folk rhythm of the second movement a bit pallid. Still, the "Romanze" movement swelled with lyrical feeling and limpid harmonies, and the robust stride of the finale was a tribute both to the Stradivarius instruments and to the people playing them.
-- Andrew Lindemann Malone