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Emerson Quartet

Monday, October 21, 2019, 7:30 p.m.

Memorial Hall

“…with musicians like this there must be some hope for humanity.” – The Times (London)

“Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: The “old” Emerson String Quartet never phoned one in. But this new group — Mr. Watkins alongside the violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, and the violist Lawrence Dutton — complemented their customary power, finesse and unanimity with a fresh, palpable vigor at Tully…it was electrifying.”– New York Times

Founded in 1976 at Juilliard, the Emerson Quartet quickly rose to the pinnacle of chamber music and has remained there ever since. With only one personnel change in 42 years, this nine-time Grammy winning ensemble has previously performed with CMC seven times: in 1978, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1999, 2002, and 2016.

The Emerson’s more than 30 acclaimed recordings have been honored with nine Grammys® (including two for Best Classical Album) and three Gramophone Awards. They also have been awarded the Avery Fisher Prize and named Musical America’s “Ensemble of the Year.” In April 2017, their recording Chaconnes and Fantasias: Music of Britten and Purcell, was the first CD issued on Decca Gold.

The Quartet frequently collaborates with the most esteemed composers to premiere new works and have partnered in performance with soloists including Reneé Fleming, Evgeny Kissin, Emanuel Ax, and Yefim Bronfman and new works by composers such as Thomas Adés, Kaija Saariaho, Wolfgang Rihm, Mark-Anthony Turnage, and Edgar Meyer.

Based in New York City, the Emerson was one of the first quartets whose violinists alternated in the first chair position. The Quartet took its name from the American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. In 2013, cellist Paul Watkins, a distinguished soloist, award-wining conductor, and devoted chamber musician, joined the enemble.

Quartet in E-flat Major – Fanny Mendelssohn

Quartet in E-flat Major, No. 10, Op. 51 “Slavonic” – Antonin Dvořák

Quartet in E Minor, Op. 59, No. 2 “Razumovsky” – Ludwig van Beethoven

Program Notes

Fanny Mendelssohn was the older sister of Felix, who was four years her junior. As a child, she evidenced great potential, both as a pianist and as a composer. Felix considered her to be the superior pianist, but cultural barriers for women prevented an equal professional career. Fanny composed more than 450 rarely performed works. Today, several, including the compelling Quartet in E Flat Major are beginning to receive their due.

Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances, Op. 46 (1878) were hugely successful and led to his international reputation as a nationalistic composer. The Florentine Quartet then approached Dvořák to write a string quartet “in the Slavic style.” Dvořák, an accomplished violist, produced his tenth string quartet, now known as “Slavonic.” Earsense describes it as “the perfect fusion of classical style and Bohemian folk spirit, in contrast to his famous “American” quartet, where ostensibly a different, new world folk spirit prevails.”

Beethoven’s three Op. 59 quartets were all written during 1806, commissioned by and dedicated to the Russian Ambassador in Vienna, Count Andreas Razumovsky, and published together in 1808. They are the first of the composer’s five “middle” quartets and among his most acclaimed and regularly performed chamber works. With them, Beethoven begins to break the new ground that leads to his six “late” quartets. Of the three in this set,
No. 2 has the most Russian sensibility. (Op. 59, No. 3 will be performed here by the St. Lawrence String Quartet on January 28, 2020.)