For its debut on Sony Classical, the Quartet has selected Mozart's last three string quartets, the "Prussian" quartets K. 575, K. 589 and K. 590. Release is scheduled for fall 2011 to coincide with a series of international concerts featuring the programme of the CD, including Wigmore Hall in London and Alice Tully Hall in New York.
Mozart's three last string quartets, written in 1789 and 1790 after a visit to the royal court in Berlin, were commissioned by the King of Prussia. The King himself played the cello and accordingly, Mozart set out to provide the cello with an especially prominent part. "These, Mozart's last quartets, represent the distillation of a lifetime of writing for string instruments in various combinations and genres."
Described by Time Magazine as "America's greatest quartet", the Emerson String Quartet has received unparalleled acclaim for concert and recording activities since its formation in 1976. This has led to recognition with nine Grammy® Awards (including two for Best Classical Album, unprecedented for a chamber music group), three Gramophone Awards and the coveted Avery Fisher Prize. Having recorded Mozart's six "Haydn Quartets" as well as the flute quartets, the Emerson have long desired to add more Mozart to their discography. This new album sees them recording Mozart quartets for the first time in 20 years.
The Emerson Quartet says:
In playing Mozart, we always strive for elegance, beauty and style; in the purely melodic passages, we try to emulate the human voice, ranging from the most intimate pianissimo to a full sonority when appropriate. In general, Mozart has played an important role in our concert repertoire, and we learned these three quartets fairly early in our career. But it had been twenty years since we recorded any of his quartets, so we felt that it was time to add more of this wonderful and challenging music to our discography.
The Emerson String Quartet, named after the American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, is based in New York City. Violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer alternate in the first chair position, while Lawrence Dutton plays viola and David Finckel is the cellist. Gramophone has noted: "The Emerson's members understand as second nature the importance of clarifying the specific character of individual phrases and balancing them all into an elegant whole, and they can turn on a dime to create quicksilver variations of mood." During the 2011-12 season, their 35th together, the Emerson will perform throughout North America and Europe, for example in Germany, Austria, England, Spain, Switzerland and Italy.