Release date: October 23 on Pentatone
The Emerson String Quartet, widely regarded as one of the world’s premier chamber music ensembles since its founding in 1976, makes its PENTATONE debut with a recording of Schumann’s three string quartets.
The artistic power of Schumann, whose life was dominated by alternating periods of depression and manic creativity, seems particularly fitting during the uncertain times of a global pandemic. This music inspires and consoles the members of the Quartet, and their hope is that it may likewise inspire listeners. “At a time when lives, livelihoods and the performing arts have been threatened by a worldwide crisis,” says Eugene Drucker, “we are grateful for the opportunity to share a labor of love that pre-dated the pandemic: our recording of Schumann’s three quartets, opus 41.”
Written in the summer of 1842 during an exceptional surge of creativity, these three quartets formed the beginning of an impassioned and prolific six-month period during which most of Schumann’s best chamber music was created. Inspired by the example of Beethoven, Schumann’s quartets display a mastery of traditional forms, combined with typically “Schumannian” fantasy and lyricism, particularly in the inner movements. As such, they underline a new level of maturity in Schumann’s artistic development, surpassing the fantastical aesthetic of previous years.
“During this shutdown,” adds Drucker, “some of us may find it difficult to channel the organizational and creative energies that have filled our lives until now. Sometimes it’s hard even to practice our instruments without a clear idea of what or when we’ll rehearse, or where our next concert might take place. With such uncertainty, it’s helpful to think of the mood swings — the alternating periods of depression and manic creativity — that governed Schumann’s life. Feeling vulnerable, we are inspired by the artistic strength of this fragile genius.”
The players of the Emerson String Quartet draw out the extraordinary freshness and originality of Schumann’s quartets. This recording adds another master composer’s quartet oeuvre to the Emersons’ impressive discography, which includes three GRAMMY® Award-winning recordings of complete string quartets – of Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Shostakovich as well as recordings of the complete Brahms, Bartók and Webern quartet output.
“We’ve lived with this music [by Schumann] intermittently since our early years,” says Drucker, “having recorded opus 41 no. 3 in the mid-1980s and occasionally performed the other two works within the next decade. But our immersion in the entire opus…has been enormously gratifying for us.”
EMERSON STRING QUARTET - UPCOMING PERFORMANCES
Livestream Concerts from 92nd Street Y
November 4, 7:30pm: Emerson String Quartet
BEETHOVEN: String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat Major, Op. 130 with Grosse Fuge, Op. 133
November 19, 7:30pm: Emerson String Quartet & Yefim Bronfman, piano
SCHUMANN: Mvmts. 2 & 3 from String Quartet in A Major, Op. 41, No. 3
BRAHMS: Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34
About Emerson String Quartet
The Emerson String Quartet has maintained its status as one of the world’s premier chamber music ensembles for more than four decades. “With musicians like this,” wrote a reviewer for The Times (London), “there must be some hope for humanity.” The Quartet has made more than 30 acclaimed recordings and has been honored with nine GRAMMYs® (including two for Best Classical Album), three Gramophone Awards, the Avery Fisher Prize, and Musical America’s “Ensemble of the Year” award. The Quartet collaborates with some of today’s most esteemed composers to premiere new works, keeping the string quartet form alive and relevant. The group has partnered in performance with such stellar soloists as Reneé Fleming, Barbara Hannigan, Evgeny Kissin, Emanuel Ax, and Yefim Bronfman, to name a few.
The Quartet’s extensive discography includes the complete string quartets of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Bartok, Webern, and Shostakovich, as well as multi-CD sets of the major works of Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, and Dvorak. The ensemble also has recorded music by Tchaikovsky, Smetana, Debussy, Ravel, Barber, and Ives. In April of 2019, the Quartet joined forces with GRAMMY®-winning pianist Evgeny Kissin to release their debut collaborative album for Deutsche Grammophon, recorded live at a sold-out Carnegie Hall concert in 2018.
Formed in 1976 and based in New York City, the Emerson String Quartet was one of the first quartets to have its violinists alternate in the first chair position. The Quartet, which takes its name from the American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, balances busy performing careers with a commitment to teaching, and serves as Quartet-in-Residence at Stony Brook University. In 2013, cellist Paul Watkins—a distinguished soloist, award-wining conductor, and devoted chamber musician—joined the original members of the Quartet to form today’s group. In the spring of 2016, the State University of New York awarded full-time Stony Brook faculty members Philip Setzer and Lawrence Dutton the status of Distinguished Professor, and conferred the title of Honorary Distinguished Professor on part-time faculty members Eugene Drucker and Paul Watkins. The Quartet’s members previously had received honorary doctorates from Middlebury College, the College of Wooster, Bard College, and the University of Hartford. In January of 2015, the Quartet received the Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award, Chamber Music America’s highest honor, in recognition of its significant and lasting contribution to the chamber music field.
PENTATONE is a classical music label for genuine artistic expression, working with internationally renowned artists. PENTATONE’s reputation for excellence is supported by a diverse catalogue, from the familiar to the unusual or unexpected, driven by the ambition to innovate classical music. The label continues to push boundaries to release recordings of high quality and artistry, acknowledged by the fact that PENTATONE has won both the Gramophone (2019) and ICMA (2020) Label of the Year awards.
PENTATONE’s catalogue includes performances by conductors like Marek Janowski, Vladimir Jurowski, Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Jakub Hrusa, Sir Neville Marriner, Yakov Kreizberg, Lawrence Foster, Philippe Herreweghe, Michele Mariotti, Kazuki Yamada, Simon Rattle, Paavo Järvi, Kent Nagano and Andrew Manze; artists like Alisa Weilerstein, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Magdalena Kozena, Piotr Beczala, Arabella Steinbacher, Julia Fischer, Inon Barnatan, Denis Kozhukhin, Thomas Adés, Martin Helmchen, Francesco Piemontesi, Mari Kodama, Johannes Moser, Matt Haimovitz, Anna Lucia Richter, Hanna-Elisabeth Müller, Melody Moore, Lisa Delan, Alice Coote, Elisabeth Kulman, Julie Fuchs, Michael Fabiano, Thomas Hampson, Nikolai Schukoff, Christian Elsner and Lester Lynch; and orchestras like the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Gulbenkian Orchestra, Houston Symphony Orchestra, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Festival Strings Lucerne, il pomo d’oro, Orchestre National de Lille, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and the Wiener Symphoniker.