One of the greatest string quartets of the last four decades, the Emerson String Quartet disband in October 2023 after 47 years of award-winning music-making at the highest level. Together with soprano Barbara Hannigan, they have recorded their final album, Infinite Voyage (Alpha Classics), featuring one of the most important chamber music works of the 20th century: Schoenberg’s Quartet No. 2 for soprano and string quartet. The album also includes works by Hindemith, Berg, and Chausson’s heartbreaking Chanson perpétuelle, for which the ensemble is joined by Hannigan and pianist Bertrand Chamayou.
Infinite Voyage evokes not only the life-long journey of these four musicians – with over 30 acclaimed recordings, nine GRAMMYs®, three Gramophone Awards and a global performing career – but also a lasting friendship between Barbara Hannigan and the Emerson String Quartet. Hannigan and the Emersons were determined to record Schoenberg’s Quartet No.2 since they first performed the work together in 2015.
“The sheer sonic scope of this work takes us on a voyage into previously uncharted territory” say the Emerson musicians. “It’s a tall, gnarly tree to climb (all the way to another planet, it seems), yet one with deep and emotional roots”, continues Barbara Hannigan. “The soprano’s fin-de-siècle primal scream at the end of the 3rd movement, begging to be relieved of love, is a heavy hitter”.
The album also features Melancholie, by the young Hindemith – a rare, intimate and sensuous work for soprano and string quartet: “a gem of a piece” that the Canadian soprano has wanted to explore for many years. Berg’s bracing Quartet Op. 3, composed in 1909 as he was finishing his apprenticeship with Schoenberg, features the quartet on its own.
“I cannot express how honoured I am to have had these years of performances with the Emersons, and what an unforgettable gift these recording days were,” said Barbara Hannigan.
“What unifies these stylistically disparate works is the expression of unfulfilled, perhaps unfulfillable yearning, as well as the composers’ absolute commitment to their aesthetic ideals. This has been an inspiring musical journey for all of us,” says Eugene Drucker of the Emerson String Quartet.
Infinite Voyage is available now for pre-order and out on September 8 on Alpha Classics
Watch the Infinite Voyage Trailer
Arnold Schoenberg (b. 1874-1951): String Quartet No. 2 in F sharp minor, Op. 10
Paul Hindemith (1895-1963): Melancholie, Op. 13
Ernest Chausson (1855-1899): Chanson perpétuelle, Op. 37
Alban Berg (1885-1935): String Quartet, Op. 3
Barbara Hannigan will join the Emerson String Quartet for their farewell concerts in Paris at the Fondation Louis Vuitton on October 7, 2023 and in Milan at the Società del Quartetto at the Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi on October 10, 2023.
Preceding the Paris concert, a tender and intimate 70-minute film documenting the recording process, created and directed by Mathieu Amalric, will be screened.