The EMERSON STRING QUARTET stands alone in the history of string quartets with an unparalleled list of achievements over three decades: over 30 acclaimed recordings produced with Deutsche Grammophon since 1987, nine Grammys (including two for Best Classical Album, an unprecedented honor for a chamber music group), three Gramophone Awards, the coveted Avery Fisher Prize, and cycles of the complete Beethoven, Bartók, Mendelssohn, and Shostakovich string quartets in the world’s musical capitals, from New York to London and Vienna. The Quartet has collaborated in concerts and on recordings with some of the greatest artists of our time. After more than 33 years of extensive touring and recording, the Emerson Quartet continues to perform with the same benchmark integrity, energy, and commitment that it has demonstrated since it was formed in 1976.
The 2010/2011 season includes a three-concert series at London’s Wigmore Hall and the world premiere of Thomas Adès’ The Four Quarters at Carnegie Hall, a work the Quartet also performs at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and at South Bank Centre in London. Additional international performances are slated for France, Russia, Mexico, and Norway, along with multiple cities in Germany, Italy, Denmark, Switzerland, and Austria. North American engagements take the Emerson to Montreal, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Detroit, Chicago, Houston, Costa Mesa, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Seattle, and Vancouver, among other cities. Following enthusiastic acclaim of its 2009 debut performances in South America, the ensemble will return to that continent in May 2011 for a second tour. The Emerson continues its residency at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, now in its 31st sold-out season.
2006/2007 marked the Quartet’s 30/20 Anniversary Season – celebrating 30 years of quartet activity and 20 years as exclusive Deutsche Grammophon recording artists. Carnegie Hall honored the Quartet with a historic nine-concert Perspectives series, titled Beethoven In Context, held in the Isaac Stern Auditorium. As a special tribute, Deutsche Grammophon and iTunes joined forces to offer an exclusive three-disc retrospective of the Emerson in June 2007 – a project featuring recording triumphs intermingled with personal interviews.
In the fall of 2002, the Emerson joined Stony Brook University as Quartet-in-Residence, coaching chamber music, giving master classes, and providing instrumental instruction. In addition to these duties, the group performs several concerts during the year at Stony Brook’s Staller Center for the Arts, and continues its educational affiliation with Carnegie Hall. In 2000, the Emerson was named Ensemble of the Year by Musical America, and in March 2004, became the 18th recipient of the Avery Fisher Prize – another first for a chamber ensemble.
In 2000, the Emerson performed the complete Shostakovich quartets at Lincoln Center in New York and in London, in a cycle divided between the Wigmore Hall and the Barbican. Each series culminated with The Noise of Time, a theatrical presentation directed by Simon McBurney (Street of Crocodiles, The Chairs) featuring the Quartet and Complicité, McBurney’s theater company. Blending film, choreography, taped readings, and live music, the multimedia work explored the haunted life of Dmitri Shostakovich through his 15th String Quartet. Since 2001, The Noise of Time has been repeated to great acclaim in Los Angeles, Berlin, Vienna, Paris, and Moscow. In 2008, New York Magazine named The Noise of Time one of the most important contributions to the arts in New York since the inception of the magazine.
The theatrical nature of Shostakovich’s music and its powerful effect on audiences led the Emerson to record the Shostakovich Quartets live during three summers of performances at the Aspen Music Festival. Meticulous editing eliminated virtually all background noise, and the recording on the Deutsche Grammophon label has been praised for its intensity and energy. The five-disc set won the 2000 Grammy for Best Classical Album and Best Chamber Music Performance, as well as Gramophone Magazine’s Best Chamber Music Performance Award for 2000.
Additional projects of note included the 2001 U.S. premiere performances of Wolfgang Rihm’s quartet concerto, Dithyrambe, with Christoph von Dohnányi and the Cleveland Orchestra in Severance Hall, Boston’s Symphony Hall, and New York’s Carnegie Hall. Through these theatrical and orchestral experiences, the Quartet became intrigued with the idea of standing while performing, and began to experiment with this style in chamber music appearances. The two violinists and the violist of the Emerson now stand for most performances; the cellist plays on a small podium.
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The Emerson String Quartet’s most recent recording for Deutsche Grammophon is Old World, New World, a 3-CD set of Dvor?ák’s late quartets, Cypresses, and the viola quintet (Op. 97), released in April 2010.
Formed in the bicentennial year of the United States, the Emerson String Quartet took its name from the great American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. Violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer alternate in the first chair position and are joined by violist Lawrence Dutton and cellist David Finckel. The Quartet has performed numerous benefit concerts for causes ranging from nuclear disarmament to campaigns against AIDS, world hunger, and children’s diseases.
The Emerson String Quartet has been the subject of two award-winning films: the nationally televised WETA-TV production In Residence at the Renwick (Emmy Award for Excellence, 1983) and Making Music: The Emerson String Quartet (First Place for Music, National Education Film Festival, 1985). To commemorate its 25th-anniversary season, the Quartet compiled a commemorative book entitled Converging Lines. The Quartet is based in New York City.