Eugene Drucker, violin
Philip Setzer, violin
Lawrence Dutton, viola
Paul Watkins, cello
The EMERSON STRING QUARTET has an unparalleled list of achievements over three decades: more than 30 acclaimed recordings, nine Grammys (including two for Best Classical Album), three Gramophone Awards, the Avery Fisher Prize, Musical America’s “Ensemble of the Year,” and collaborations with many of the greatest artists of our time.
The arrival of Paul Watkins in 2013 has had a profound effect on the Emerson Quartet. Watkins, a distinguished soloist, award-winning conductor, and devoted chamber musician, joined the ensemble in its 37th season, and his dedication and enthusiasm have infused the Quartet with a warm, rich tone and a palpable joy in the collaborative process. The reconfigured group has been greeted with impressive accolades. “One of the characteristics of the Emerson Quartet is that its players (the violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer and the violist Lawrence Dutton in addition, now, to Mr. Watkins) all have the ability and the instruments to produce a sweet and glossy sound — but do so sparingly. Instead, they establish a chromatic scale of timbres that range from dry and tart over clean and zesty all the way to lustrous and singing. Listening to them pass tiny rhythmic motifs around the group, I was struck by how evenly calibrated these timbres were.” The New York Times
The Quartet’s summer season began with engagements in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and a pair of concerts in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Following a tour of Japan, the Quartet performed at the Ravinia, Tanglewood, Chamber Music Northwest, Aspen, Domaine Forget, Toronto, Austin, Norfolk, Cape Cod, and Mostly Mozart festivals. In a season of over 80 quartet performances, mingled with the Quartet members’ individual artistic commitments, Emerson highlights feature numerous concerts on both coasts and throughout North America. In October, Paul Watkins performed with the Emerson Quartet for the first time in Carnegie Hall. The program included the Schumann Piano Quintet with acclaimed pianist and colleague Yefim Bronfman. Multiple tours of Europe comprise dates in Austria, Ireland, Switzerland, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The Quartet continued its series at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC for its 35th season, and, in May, is presented by colleagues David Finckel and Wu Han for the two final season concerts at Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in Alice Tully Hall. Guest artists Colin Carr and Paul Neubauer join the Emerson in a program that also includes the New York premiere of Lowell Liebermann’s String Quartet No. 5, commissioned by a consortium of presenters through Music Accord.
As an exclusive artist for Sony Classical, the Emerson recently released Journeys, its second CD on that label, featuring Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence and Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht. Future recordings are planned with Watkins.
Formed in 1976 and based in New York City, the Emerson was one of the first quartets formed with two violinists alternating in the first chair position. In 2002, the Quartet began to stand for most of its concerts, with the cellist seated on a riser. The Emerson Quartet took its name from the American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson and is Quartet-in-Residence at Stony Brook University. In January of 2015, the Quartet received the Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award, Chamber Music America’s highest honor, in recognition of its significant and lasting contribution to the chamber music field.