Getting to know Emerson String Quartet

We are a little over a week away from the kick-off of our 10x10 Arts Series. Emerson String Quartet is our first performance of the series, and their concert is Sunday, October 9 at 3:00pm. 

Emerson is comprised of violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer who alternate in the first chair position, and by violist Lawrence Dutton and cellist David Finckel. In order to better understand some of the faces behind the Quartet, we recently sent them a series of questions to answer. 

From Phil Setzer:

1. Any musical collaborations from the past or visions of a collaboration that we might be surprised to hear about?

We performed “Yesterday” and “Lady Madonna” with Paul McCartney at a benefit concert a couple of years ago for Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall camps. It was fun to meet Sir Paul and actually perform with him and it was great to do this for our friend Paul Newman who sadly left us soon after.

2. How has classical music evolved over your career and how has that affected the quartet?

Classical music will always exist. There is much written about how classical music is dying, but we have travelled recently to Asia and South America where we were literally mobbed by young music students who, if not all the professional musicians of tomorrow, will certainly be a big percentage of the audience!

3. What are the last 3 songs you listened to on your Ipod?

-Schubert’s “Du bist die ruh” with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore 

- Ives songs with with Jan Degaetini and Gil Kalish

- Beatles “Ticket to Ride”

From Eugene Drucker:

1. What part of the performance are you most excited to shared with audience members? Why?

It's hard to pick just one part of the performance as my favorite. I'm excited to share Haydn's last complete quartet, Op. 77 #2, with the audience. It's full of vitality in the outer movements and in the minuet, though there is a much more placid middle section in that second movement (minuet). The third movement is an ingenious set of variations.   

It's also exciting for us to see an audience's reaction to a new piece. The Jalbert was written for us and premiered in Houston a few months ago; since then, we've played a handful of performances. Audiences will respond to the wistful atmosphere of the first and third movements, as well as the propulsive energy of the second and fourth. Here, as in the Haydn, the third movement is a set of variations, this one on a theme based on an old Huguenot melody.  

The Beethoven quartet is the culmination of the groundbreaking explorations that the composer, by now profoundly deaf, made in his five late quartets. This is the last multi-movement work in any genre that he completed. In the first movement, Beethoven seems to bring us back into the sound world and gestural landscape of Haydn and Mozart, but the scherzo is a wild ride; the slow movement -- once again, a set of variations -- is, like the slow movements of the other late quartets, one of the deepest utterances in our quartet literature, and the finale contrasts a brooding slow introduction with a joyous and assertive fast movement.

2. All this touring…what’s your least favorite form of transportation/traveling?

I don't love all the time spent in airports and on often crowded airplanes. Sometimes I will opt to drive a distance of 4 or 5 hours rather than fly 1 hour, because the time spent traveling door-to-door, with all the waiting time before the flight, is almost as long. This is especially true if the only reliable flight between two cities leaves early in the morning; I would prefer to set my own schedule whenever possible.

3. You’re in music as a career, clearly you love sound…what’s your favorite sound?  

I love the sound of a great singing voice, either operatic and/or that of a great Lieder singer. We string players try to emulate great singers when possible and appropriate. I also love the sound of a great orchestra in symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms or Mahler, to name just a few of the orchestral composers whose music has thrilled me.

We loved reading their responses and hope you will as well.  If you would like to find out more about the Emerson String Quartet, head over to their website and check them out. They are a fascinating group that have been making music together for three decades. Walton Arts Center is excited to bring this world-renowned quartet to Northwest Arkansas!