Emerson String Quartet

Chamber Music and Orchestras

Eugene Drucker (Violin); Philip Setzer (Violin); Lawrence Dutton (Viola); Paul Watkins (Cello)

Biography

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 Emerson String Quartet’s 2019-2020 season, which begins with a seven-city tour of Australia, includes a number of high-profile projects. Among the North American highlights is a three-concert stint at Lincoln Center’s Great Performers Series featuring Beethoven’s “Razumovsky” Quartets and the complete Bartok cycle. The Quartet performs in its 41st series at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and makes appearances at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, Friends of Chamber Music in Vancouver, Wharton Center for Performing Arts in East Lansing, MI, South Mountain Concerts, Wooster Chamber Music, Chamber Music Cincinnati, Chamber Music Louisville and Friends of Music Concerts in Millwood, NY. Overseas, the Quartet performs the complete Beethoven Cycle at the Seoul International Music Festival, and embarks on three European tours, with stops in Serbia, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Poland, and Spain.

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. 

The Emerson String Quartet enthusiastically endorses Thomastik strings.

Recent News

Emerson String Quartet Embarks on European Tour 16 – 24 March

Emerson String Quartet travel to Europe for a 3-country, 5 date tour from 16 – 24 March. The Quartet – violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, violist Lawrence Dutton and cellist Paul Watkins - will perform eclectic programmes featuring works by Mozart, Haydn,...

Reviews

“Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: The “old” Emerson String Quartet never phoned one in. But this new group — Mr. Watkins alongside the violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, and the violist Lawrence Dutton — complemented their customary power, finesse and unanimity with a fresh, palpable vigor at Tully, and it was electrifying.”

The New York Times

“This performance was everything that a string quartet should be – an intelligent conversation between four distinct characters.”

Bachtrack

More Reviews

“From the start the most enduring attribute has been the sheer technical excellence of the quartet’s playing. For precision and unanimity it is second to none… [They] performed with every ounce of the taut, incisive grip that is the mark of the Emerson String Quartet at its best … so perfectly in tune that it was almost uncanny. Forty years on, the Emerson String Quartet remains at the top of its game.”

Financial Times

“Emerson String Quartet, with its “new-ish” cellist, Paul Watkins, … was in a league apart. The sheer quality of ensemble playing from the Emersons, with Watkins seamlessly integrated into the group, while retaining his characterful playing style and profile, was almost miraculous to hear… It’s almost as though the group liberates the truth of the music from the score.”

Herald Scotland

“Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: The “old” Emerson String Quartet never phoned one in. But this new group — Mr. Watkins alongside the violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, and the violist Lawrence Dutton — complemented their customary power, finesse and unanimity with a fresh, palpable vigor at Tully, and it was electrifying.”

The New York Times

“This performance was everything that a string quartet should be – an intelligent conversation between four distinct characters.”

Bachtrack