The most famous piece of music written for the unique quartet of violin, piano, cello and clarinet was created out of circumstances.
enhake was created simply to be able to play the piece.
On Sunday, the quartet of graduate students at Florida State University will perform Olivier Messiaen’s “Quatrour Pour La Fin du Temps,” (“Quartet for the End of Time”) at Friends of Chamber Music’s 2:30 p.m. concert on Sunday at Faye Spanos Concert Hall.
Taken prisoner by the Nazis during World War II, Messiaen met a cellist, clarinet player and violinist at Stalag 8-A.
“He was already famous at this point and the German MPs knew of him,” said enhake violinist Brent Williams. “They allowed him to have manuscript paper and provided pencils and found a piano for him and allowed him to compose.”
Originally, Williams said, Messiaen composed a piece for the clarinetist, and it became the third movement of the work for the quartet.
“The work premiered in the camp during World War II and the audience was prisoners and guards,” Williams said.
At that time, 1941, there were only a couple pieces that had been written for piano, cello, violin and clarinet and Messiaen probably did not known either of them, Williams said.
“The reason he decided to write for this combinations is that is what was there,” Williams said.
enhake was born of a desire to perform “Quatrour Pour La Fin du Temps.” There was no thought given to a long-term commitment.
But nearly 10 years later, enhake continues to perform and the Messiaen piece is almost always requested by presenting organizations.
“It’s such a great piece. We hardly ever say no,” Williams said. “We love it, too. In our opinion, it’s the best piece written for this combination ever composed.”
It’s the standard for such a quartet. There are contemporary composers enhake has commissioned and the centennial celebration of Messiaen’s birth in 2008 prompted a renewed interest in his work and the creation of works for the unique combination.
enhake — the Creek Indian word for sound or word, a nod to Florida State’s Seminole mascot — is comprised of Williams, pianist Eun-Hee Park, clarinetist Wonkak Kim and cellist Katherine Decker.
Park, Kim and Williams had combined to play Bartok’s “Contrasts,” a challenging piece, for part of Williams’ doctoral work at Florida State.
“We loved the experience and it was like, ‘What could we do a concert with?’ ” Williams said.
They wanted to do Messiaen’s piece and enlisted cellist Jayoung Kim, who, like Park and Wonkak Kim, was from Korea.
After their performance, the four were encouraged to enter chamber music competitions and won the first time out.
“We took a step back and said maybe we can make this into something sustainable,” Williams said. “That required us to scour the repertoire list for pieces we didn’t know existed.”
There are a few pieces, and they commissioned others. In 2011, Jayoung Kim returned to Korea as planned and Decker, who’d played with enhake members in various groupings, accepted the offer to join the group.
They are scattered across the country — Williams in Wichita, Kansas, and others in Oregon, Wisconsin and Tennessee — but they gather for intense rehearsals of several days before performances.
At one time the group performed as many as 50 concerts a year, but then they all began having children — Williams has 4- and 2-year-olds — and they scaled back.
They’re trying to increase their performances once again. Prior to Sunday’s show, the group has a Friday show in Sacramento and one on Saturday in Sacramento.
Contact reporter Lori Gilbert at (209) 546-8284 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @lorigrecord.