Emerson String Quartet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Emerson String Quartet

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All the members of the Emerson String Quartet--Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer alternating as first and second violin, Lawrence Dutton on viola, and David Finckel on cello--play at the level of soloists, technically and musically. Together since 1976, they have a remarkable blended sound and play with exceptional precision and intensity. To date they've won six Grammys: two for their Shostakovich cycle, two for their Bartok cycle, one for works by Ives and Barber, and one for the complete quartets of Beethoven. Their latest cycle, released in May, focuses on the quartets of Mendelssohn, though it also includes works such as his octet--a high-octane performance that they, with the help of technology, recorded themselves. For this concert they'll play three Mendelssohn quartets. The op. 12 and op. 44, no. 1, show his classical roots, though the rhythmic drive and exuberance are his own. The op. 80 is one of his last compositions and one of only two quartets he wrote in a minor key. Predominantly dark, it was written shortly after his beloved sister Fanny, also a talented musician, died. A deep sense of agitation and surging energy comes through the numerous tremolos and ascending melodies, and there's heartbreak in the second movement's relentless dotted rhythms, repeated notes, and incremental climbing. Only the third movement's lyrical adagio is in major, and even it begins with a descending minor scale. Last year at Ravinia the Emerson delivered a stunning performance of Mendelssohn's op. 81 fugue, and I suspect this too will be an amazing concert. Fri 9/9, 8 PM, Martin Theatre, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park, 847-266-5100, $10-$50.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mitch Jenkins.

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