Emerson String Quartet
The Emerson String Quartet stands alone in the history of string quartets with an
unparalleled list of achievements over three decades: more than 30 acclaimed recordings
since 1987; nine Grammy Awards (including two for Best Classical Album-an
unprecedented honor for a chamber music group); three Gramophone Awards; and
cycles of the complete Beethoven, Bartók, Mendelssohn, and Shostakovich string quartets in
the world's musical capitals. The quartet has collaborated in concerts and on recordings
with some of the greatest artists of our time. 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.
In March 2011, Sony Classical announced an exclusive agreement with the Emerson String
Quartet. The quartet's debut album for the label was released in October 2011 to coincide
with a series of concerts at Wigmore Hall in London and Alice Tully Hall in New York City.
In June 2012, the Emerson embarked on its first tour of China, which included sold-out
performances in Shenzhen, Tianjin, and Beijing. In 2012-2013, its 36th season as an
ensemble, the Emerson performs extensively throughout North America. Its European itinerary
includes Paris, Moscow, Salzburg, Vienna, Copenhagen, Munich, Perugia, and London. The
Emerson continues its series at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, for its 33rd
season. An album of Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence and Schoenberg's
Verklärte Nacht is slated for release by Sony in March 2013.
Of the multiple highlights and extraordinary projects accredited to the Emerson String
Quartet, several milestone achievements stand out. In both 1981 and 1988, the quartet
attracted national attention with the presentation of the six Bartók quartets in a single
evening, first at Lincoln Center and later for its Carnegie Hall debut. The Emerson's
recording 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 set of the complete Beethoven quartets
and presented a sold-out series of performances over two seasons at Lincoln Center entitled
Beethoven and the Twentieth Century. The Beethoven recording earned a Grammy Award
for Best Chamber Music Album.
In 2000, the Emerson performed the complete Shostakovich quartets at Lincoln Center and in
London, in a cycle divided between Wigmore Hall and the Barbican. Each series culminated
with The Noise of Time, a theatrical presentation directed by Simon McBurney that
featured the Emerson and Complicité, Mr. McBurney's theater company. Since 2001, The
Noise of Time has been repeated in Los Angeles, Berlin, Vienna, Paris, and
Moscow. The five-disc set won the 2000 Grammy Awards for Best Classical Album and Best
Chamber Music Performance, as well as Gramophone magazine's Best Chamber
Music Performance Award for 2000. 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.
In 2007, the quartet celebrated 30 years of activity and 20 years as exclusive Deutsche
Grammophon recording artists with a historic nine-concert Perspectives series in Stern
Auditorium / Perelman Stage, titled Beethoven in Context. The series, which
spanned three centuries of repertoire, received an overwhelming response and nine
outstanding reviews in The New York Times.
Since 2002, the Emerson has been Quartet-in-Residence at Stony Brook University. Prior to
that time, they were affiliated for 20 years with the Hartt School of Music.
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. The founding members
of the Emerson, violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, were joined by violist
Lawrence Dutton in 1977 and cellist David Finckel in 1979. 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. The ensemble recently announced what will be its
first member change in 34 years, when cellist Paul Watkins replaces David Finckel at the
end of the 2012-2013 concert season. Mr. Finckel will leave the group to devote more time
to his personal artistic endeavors. To mark Mr. Finckel's departure from and Mr. Watkins's
debut with the Emerson String Quartet, all five gentlemen will perform together for the
first time at the Smithsonian on May 11, 2013.