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Early Music America Magazine
"The ensemble created a sumptuous sound with beautifully controlled dynamics, and its performance of 'The Bird' was especially memorable."
—Don Kaplan, reviewing our June, 2012 Berkeley Festival concert (for the complete review, see here)
The San Francisco Examiner
"New Esterházy could perform this music with the same coherence they have brought to all of their other interpretations of Haydn quartets, making for a listening experience that was as stimulating as it was satisfying."
—Stephen Smoliar, reviewing Vienna in the 19th Century (for the complete review, see here)
"just the right measure of spiritedness...skillful control of tempo and dynamics"
—Stephen Smoliar, reviewing Haydn & His Students VI (for the complete review, see here)
"There is considerable originality in this quartet [Mozart's K. 590] along all dimensions of harmonic and contrapuntal grammar, structural logic, and expressive rhetoric. The New Esterházy performance breathed life into all of those dimensions as they had already done with Haydn's delightful sense of wit and Boccherini's adventurous passages, particularly when the cello was involved."
—Stephen Smoliar, reviewing The Cellist King (for the complete review, see here)
"New Esterházy performed this with all the technical discipline and period-appropriate expressiveness that the music deserved..."
—Stephen Smoliar, reviewing our Pages Torn from Hoffmeister (for the complete review, see here)
"They turned each of their selections into a new listening experience, disclosing aspects of the composer’s inventiveness that would otherwise be lost in the blur of too many instruments."
—Stephen Smoliar, reviewing our Grand Concert Symphonique (for the complete review, see here)
"Yesterday’s concert thus provided an informative and exhilarating account of how the practice of music progressed from its initial explorations of Sturm und Drang into a more intense Romantic style..."
—Stephen Smoliar, reviewing our Haydn & His Students V concert (for the complete review, see here)
San Francisco Classical Voice
"They maintained a light playfulness of spirit, characteristic of this music."
—Margaret Jones, reviewing the California Bach Society's Haydn & Mozart Rediscovered (for the complete review, see here)
"perfect tuning and sensitive phrasing"
—Jamie Apgar, reviewing Haydn & His Students VI (for the complete review, see here)
"Information about an interesting but relatively unknown figure in music history, combined with a fine string quartet performing at least one musical masterpiece at a beautiful venue — together, they made for an enjoyable afternoon concert Saturday..."
—Niels Swinkels, reviewing our Pages Torn from Hoffmeister (for the complete review, see here)
"Characteristic of this quartet is the attention to detail and phrasing as well as a preference for letting the instruments resonate..."
—Thomas Busse, reviewing our September, 2012 All-Haydn concert (for the complete review, see here)
“No one remotely interested in Haydn will want to miss this.”
—Michelle Dulak Thomson, reviewing the first of our live-performance CDs (for the complete review, see here)
"The performances are all that we who have followed the quartet (and its players) would expect. There is the pleasure in inflection that I’ve always heard from this quartet. No repeat is allowed to go unvaried — not as to notes (I didn’t hear anyone ornamenting anything here, and indeed it would be nearly impossible to do so), but instead in terms of dynamics, inflection, voicing, balance. These are players who figure that if you are to play something three times over, there ought to be some purpose in it."
—Michelle Dulak Thomson, reviewing the second of our live-performanace CDs (for the complete review, see here)
"Judging by the number of excellent professional string players who showed up to hear the New Esterházy Quartet Saturday at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco, the small audience knew it was in for a treat. This quartet is my favorite type of chamber ensemble. The members — Lisa Weiss, Kati Kyme, Anthony Martin, and William Skeen — come from the front chairs of Bay Area period instrument bands such as Philharmonia Baroque and the American Bach Soloists. Whereas many top-flight touring quartets grow insular and even seemingly tired of the quartet repertory, New Esterházy’s members gain from their constant exposure to working in different situations, with wind players and singers who breathe, with music that is staged, or with conductors offering unique and eccentric ideas. The New Esterházy players also have the strength of long association with each other, having originally come together to perform the complete Haydn quartets..."
—Thomas Busse, reviewing our November 2011 concert of Haydn, Reicha, Zmeskall, and Beethoven (for the complete review, see here)
"The New Esterházy Quartet's performance demonstrated camaraderie, marked above all by exceptional unity of purpose and total commitment to the group's interpretive schemes...New Esterházy gave [the Mozart Quartet in Eb] an enlivening performance, imbuing the first-movement Allegro ma non troppo with exceptional fluidity and polish. The gentle melodic phrases of the ensuing Andante con moto emerged with flowing grace, placed atop an accompaniment as thick as taffy and just as luscious. The quartet’s feisty rendition of the Menuetto pleasingly contrasted ponderous gestures with more sprightly fare. Yet its greatest dynamism came in the closing Allegro vivace, where madcap episodes collide against moments of restraint. Here New Esterházy flexed the full powers of its imagination, its highly vivid interpretation unleashing the movement’s potential for expressive contrast."
—Joseph Sargent, reviewing the third concert of the Dedicated to Haydn series (for the complete review, see here)
“The Quartet’s players seemed to relish their assignment in exactly the right way. They were continually and minutely responsive both to the music and to each other, skating over nothing, digging into everything. It was intense playing, but the very reverse of dour...Anyone who wants to hear the definitive retort to the idea of the tame, predictable, cliche-ridden Haydn need only follow this new Bay Area quartet’s activities for the next two years.”
—Michelle Dulak Thomson, reviewing NEQ’s first public concert (for the complete review, see here)
“It was truly a pleasure to see such an accomplished group of musicians present these four quartets. Yet the New Esterházy Quartet's true strength is not in the individual talents they all possess, but in the lively exchange and obvious joy they share as an ensemble.”
—Rebekah Ahrendt, reviewing the first concert of the Haydn Cycle (for the complete review, see here)
“The New Esterházys, however, are clearly enamored with Haydn’s capacity to generate unique experiences for each player, while still presenting a well-balanced whole. Throughout the concert the instrumentalists smiled at every witticism, were startled at every sudden modulation or quirky turn of phrase, and drove through the composer’s virtuoso passagework as if they were the most difficult sections ever played… What I perceived were deceptive cadences that really deceived, sudden changes in modality and dynamic that were breathtaking, contrapuntal complexity, and a carefully controlled and contained excitement that felt ready to explode at any moment …freshness, vitality, intelligence, poignancy, intimacy, and thrills. There’s little more that you could hope for from a chamber-music concert.”
—Jonathan Rhodes Lee, reviewing the second concert of the Haydn Cycle (for the complete review, see here)
“This was quartet flying in loose formation: both joyous and alert, but never so militantly alert as to stifle the joy. There was also the sort of dynamic nuance that implies a lot of thinking about the music. (Menuets, which get played through three times, always got some sort of new shaping by the NEQ the last time through.) And there were places where everything did come together, and suddenly you couldn’t hear the music any other way.”
—Michelle Dulak Thomson, reviewing the first concert of NEQ’s second season (for the complete review, see here)
Read a Feature Article by Alan Ulrich in the SF Chronicle on the Haydn Quartet Cycle:
"New Esterházy Quartet in Harmony with Haydn"
A Listener Writes...
To the New Esterházy Quartet:
My three companions and I are still glowing from the beautiful concert you gave last night at the Palo Alto First Lutheran Church. Not only did you play the Haydn with great verve and insight, but the warm church acoustics helped to make it a truly memorable listening experience. We congratulate the four of you, and thank you enthusiastically for your efforts!
It was our happy assumption that you would be playing all of Haydn’s quartets locally, and our only disappointment of the evening was to discover that we were attending the ONLY one. At least we got to enjoy that. Unfortunately, our advanced years make it too difficult to make the drive to San Francisco to hear the others. And of course we would have missed the first two anyway. Perhaps the best answer for us is to have you record them all someday.
A personal note: I first became enchanted by chamber music as a lad, ushering for a series of concerts held in the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles in the late 1930s. These were given in an intimate, quasi-living-room setting, with upholstered chairs casually arranged around the musicians—as close to a “chamber” atmosphere as the hotel could provide. The concerts were attended by several dozen formally-attired patrons, and to cater to their refined sensibilities, I had to dress in my first tuxedo. I no longer recall their names, but one quartet played everything without music and another’s first-violinist played left-handed. Later, under less austere circumstances (as a serviceman during WWII), I often heard the Budapest Quartet play in the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge auditorium at the Library of Congress in Washington. They became my gold standard.
I mention this early personal history to show that it really means something to me to say that your performance of Haydn gave me more pleasure than any other performance I ever heard in all those years. One facet of this was the revelation of hearing those quartets performed with gut strings and without (or with very subtle) vibrato. It resulted in a gorgeous sound, admirably suited to your thoughtful interpretations. I cherish its memory.
Sincerely . . . Don McDonald
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