|EMERSON STRING QUARTET
Acclaimed for its insightful performances, brilliant artistry and technical mastery, the Emerson String Quartet is one of the world's foremost chamber ensembles, and has amassed an impressive list of achievements: a brilliant series of recordings exclusively documented by Deutsche Grammophon since 1987; six Grammy Awards including two unprecedented honors for "Best Classical Album;" three Gramophone Magazine Awards and performances of the complete cycles of Beethoven, Bartók and Shostakovich quartets in major concert halls throughout the world. The ensemble is lauded globally as a string quartet that approaches both classical and contemporary repertoire with equal mastery and enthusiasm. For a quarter of a century, the group has collaborated with such artists as Emanuel Ax, Misha Dichter, Leon Fleisher, the Guarneri String Quartet, Thomas Hampson, Lynn Harrell, Barbara Bonney, Barbara Hendricks, the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, Menahem Pressler, Mstislav Rostropovich, David Shifrin, Richard Stoltzman and the late Isaac Stern and Oscar Shumsky.
In the summer of 2005, the Quartet continued its exploration of Dmitri Shostakovich, with multiple performances of "The Noise of Time" in both Paris and Moscow with Simon McBurney's theatre ensemble Complicité. In April and May, 2006 the Emerson performs the complete Shostakovich string quartet cycle for Great Performers at Lincoln Center as part of A Creative Path, the Music of Dmitri Shostakovich, which also includes Valery Gergiev conducting the complete symphonies. The string quartet cycle will also be performed in five concerts at London's South Bank Centre in March of 2006. In February 2006, Deutsche Grammophon releases a disc of Nielsen, Sibelius and Grieg.
In addition to its active performance schedule in the major concert halls of North America, the Quartet tours Europe extensively, with stops in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and Austria. In 2005-2006, the Quartet continues its relationship with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. as part of the group's 26th sold-out season. Programs this season include the world premiere of a Nicholas Maw quartet, commissioned by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. 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. The ensemble conducted its first International Chamber Music Festival at Stony Brook in June 2004 and is planning its second Festival for May 2006. 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 March 2004, the Quartet was named the 18th recipient of the 2004 Avery Fisher Prize - another first for a chamber ensemble.
Throughout its 27-year history, the Emerson String Quartet has garnered an international reputation for groundbreaking chamber music projects and correlated recordings for Deutsche Grammophon. In 1988, the Quartet attracted national attention with the presentation of the six Bartók quartets in a single evening for its Carnegie Hall debut. The Emerson's subsequent release of the cycle received the 1989 Grammy Awards for "Best Classical Album" and "Best Chamber Music Performance" and Gramophone Magazine's 1989 "Record of the Year Award" - the first time in the history of each award that a chamber music ensemble had ever received the top prize.
In March 1997, the Quartet released a seven-disc boxed set of the complete Beethoven quartets and organized a series of performances over two seasons at New York's Lincoln Center entitled "Beethoven and the Twentieth Century," a total of eight concerts that paired two Beethoven quartets with a twentieth-century composition. Initial reviews of this series were so strong that the remaining performances were completely sold-out, and the recording earned a Grammy Award for "Best Chamber Music Album."
In 2000, the Emerson performed the complete Shostakovich quartets in a critically acclaimed five-concert series presented at New York's Alice Tully Hall, as well as at Wigmore Hall and the Barbican Centre in London. The series culminated with The Noise of Time, a theatrical presentation directed by Simon McBurney (Street of Crocodiles, The Chairs) featuring the Quartet and Complicité. The project explored the haunted life of Dmitri Shostakovich through his 15th String Quartet. Blending film, choreography, taped readings and live music, the multimedia work captured the essence of this composer and his music. 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 the intensity and energy of its performances. The disc won the 2000 Grammy Awards for "Best Classical Album" and "Best Chamber Music Performance" and Gramophone Magazine's 2000 "Record of the Year" Award for "Best Chamber Music Performance." Additional projects of note include the 2001 US premiere performances of Wolfgang Rihm's Dithyrambe for Quartet and Orchestra with Christoph von Dohnanyi and the Cleveland Orchestra in Severance Hall, Boston's Symphony Hall and New York's Carnegie Hall. Through this experience, 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 all performances; the cellist plays on a small podium.
Additional discs on the Deutsche Grammophon label include the recently released complete Mendelssohn string quartets, Haydn's Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross, Bach's Art of Fugue, The Emerson Encores (a compilation of short pieces or movements excerpted from larger works), quartets by Schumann, Dvo?ák, Prokofiev, Barber and Ives, the Schubert Cello Quintet with Mstislav Rostropovich, the Schumann Piano Quintet and Quartet with Menahem Pressler, the Grammy-nominated Dvo?ák Piano Quintet and Quartet with Pressler, and the Grammy-nominated complete string works of Anton Webern and Samuel Barber's Dover Beach with baritone Thomas Hampson. In 1994, the Emerson won its third Grammy Award for "Best Chamber Music Recording" with a disc of American Originals - the quartets of Ives and Barber.
Dedicated to the performance of classical repertoire, the Emerson String Quartet also has a strong commitment to the commissioning and performance of 20th- and 21st-century music. Important commissions and premieres include compositions by Andre Prévin (2003), Joan Tower (2003), Ellen Taaffe Zwillich (1998), Edgar Meyer (1995), Ned Rorem (1995), Paul Epstein (1994), Wolfgang Rihm (1993), Richard Wernick (1991), Richard Danielpour (1988), John Harbison (1987), Gunther Schuller (1986), George Tsontakis (1984), Maurice Wright (1983), Ronald Caltabiano (1981) and Mario Davidovsky (1979).
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 the fight against AIDS, world hunger and children's diseases. In 2000, the group was selected as Musical America's "Ensemble of the Year." The Quartet members were honored by the Governor of Connecticut for their outstanding cultural contributions to the state, and in 1994 received the University Medal for Distinguished Service from the University of Hartford. In 1995, each member was awarded an honorary doctoral degree by Middlebury College in Vermont. They have also received a Smithson Award from the Smithsonian Institution.
The Emerson String Quartet has been featured in The New York Times Magazine, USA Today, Elle, Bon Appetit, Gramophone, The Strad, and Strings. Television appearances include PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, WNET's City Arts, WLIW's Metroguide, and A&E's Biography of Beethoven and Breakfast with the Arts. The ensemble 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. Written in the members' own words, the book contains never-before-
published text, graphics and photos from the Emerson's private archives. The Quartet is based in New York City.
"America's greatest quartet." -Time Magazine
"The Emerson has the traditional string-quartet virtues; each player is a strongly characterized individual, but the ensemble is temperamentally as well as sonically in balance. The four minds play upon each other, and upon the work, in perfect harmony; the players are in tune in all senses of the phrase."
-The New Yorker
"The Emerson give us playing of exceptional technical accomplishment and an unusually wide expressive range. They continually offer new insights into some endlessly enthralling music. Do hear them."