Performance Tuesday, October 14, 2014 | 8 PM

Emerson String Quartet
Yefim Bronfman

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
String music by two of England’s greatest composers and works by two German masters make for a thrilling evening of chamber music. Purcell’s great Chaconne is featured in Britten’s inventive arrangement for strings, while Britten’s String Quartet No. 2 pays tribute to Purcell’s Chaconne in his quartet’s powerful finale. Beethoven dubbed his F-Minor Quartet “Quartetto serioso,” thanks to its intensity and drive. Schumann’s Piano Quintet is an exuberant and inventive work from its opening movement to its thrilling closing double fugue.


  • Emerson String Quartet
    ·· Eugene Drucker, Violin
    ·· Philip Setzer, Violin
    ·· Lawrence Dutton, Viola
    ·· Paul Watkins, Cello
  • Yefim Bronfman, Piano


  • BEETHOVEN String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 95, "Serioso"
  • PURCELL Chaconne in G Minor (arr. Britten)
  • BRITTEN String Quartet No. 2 in C Major
  • SCHUMANN Piano Quintet in E-flat Major


Schumann's Piano Quintet in E Flat Major, Op. 44 (Allegro brillante)
Emerson String Quartet | Menahem Pressler, Piano
Deutsche Grammophon

At a Glance

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN  String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 95, “Serioso”

Beethoven’s 16 string quartets constitute a towering achievement that has both inspired and intimidated composers ever since. Schumann declared that the genre had “come to a standstill” since Beethoven’s death. By the time the F-Minor Quartet was written, the callow virtuoso who had taken Vienna by storm in the 1790s had long since matured into a musical revolutionary.

HENRY PURCELL  Chaconne in G Minor (arr. Britten)

This short piece attests to Britten’s lifelong engagement with Purcell’s music, both as a composer and as a performer. He produced his arrangement in the late 1940s, shortly before the English Opera Group’s landmark production of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas in a modern edition prepared by Britten and Imogen Holst.

BENJAMIN BRITTEN  String Quartet No 2 in C Major, Op. 36

Not counting a student work composed in 1931 and belatedly published in the mid-1970s, Britten wrote three quartets—two in the early 1940s and the last in 1975. An homage to Purcell, the Second Quartet of 1945 followed close on the heels of Peter Grimes, the opera in which Britten aimed to “restore to the musical setting of the English language a brilliance, freedom, and vitality that have been curiously rare since the death of Purcell.”

ROBERT SCHUMANN  Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 44

The ever-popular Piano Quintet in E-flat Major was a highlight of Schumann’s “chamber music year” of 1842, a hugely productive period that saw the composition of no fewer than three string quartets as well as the Op. 47 Piano Quartet. In all five pieces, Schumann distanced himself from the literary models that had inspired much of his earlier work, concentrating instead on structural clarity and the craft of composition.

This performance is part of Great Artists II.

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