This monumental release documents the Emerson String Quartets exceptional longevity and dynamism founded in 1976, they are still as youthfully active and inquisitive as ever 40 years later. Moreover it charts the New York-based ensembles musical breadth, encompassing virtually all of the important repertoire for their formation.
This 52 CD collection includes their complete output on DG and features highlights such as the Nine Grammy Awards, Three Gramophone Magazine Awards; complete cycles by Shostakovich, Beethoven and Bartok; plus String Quartets by Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Schubert and many more.
Here's a recording that doesn't introduce its star name until it's more than half over, and works quite well on that account. The understanding of the opening work, Alban Berg's six-movement Lyric Suite (1926), has evolved since scholars discovered a secret copy of the work that, despite its use of the abstract 12-tone system, outlines a quite specific program depicting the course of the composer's extramarital affair with Dorothea Robetin the previous year. The finale was even shown to contain an unsung melody, a setting of a very relevant Baudelaire poem, and to be performable with the melody sung.
The Beethoven quartets have always been at the cote of the Emerson Quartet's repertoire, and over the years it has honed its playing of these works to a fine degree. Here in this new set we encounter exaltation, immaculate playing and ensemble precision of awesome proportions (typically, first and second violinists often swap their roles). The Emerson is perhaps the best rehearsed quartet of our century. The playing is not only flawless technically, but reflects a careful study of the music, both formally and in the players' intense preoccupation with textual matters. The recording of this set is also spectacular.
The Emerson String Quartet formed in 1976 and kept the same personnel for more than 30 years. Journeys marks its final release with original cellist David Finckel, who has departed to pursue other projects (notably duo concerts with his wife, pianist Wu Han). It thus represents a turning point of sorts, and it is good to see that the group has not been content with simply recrossing safe territory but has delivered something innovative, both within its own catalog and in the general chamber music marketplace. The Emerson Quartet's repertory has rested solidly in the Haydn/Beethoven/Brahms mainstream. The group has rarely recorded Tchaikovsky, and Schoenberg never until this release. Journeys contains both, in the form of two sextets, Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence and Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht.
The String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Opus 11, was Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's first completed string quartet of three string quartets, published during his lifetime. (An earlier attempt had been abandoned after the first movement had been completed.) Composed in February 1871, it was premiered in Moscow on 16/28 March 1871 by four members of the Russian Musical Society: Ferdinand Laub and Ludvig Minkus, violins; Pryanishnikov, viola; and Wilhelm Fitzenhagen, cello.
Pure and simple genius from trumpeter Charlie Shavers – a player with a sweet tone and a fluid groove – stepping out here with great accompaniment from pianist Ray Bryant! The CD brings together work from the albums Charlie Digs Paree and Charlie Digs Dixie – both originally recorded for MGM Records in the late 50s, and done in a clean, uncluttered style that really brought a strong focus to Shaver's solos, but also gave some excellent rhythmic support from Bryant – working here at the height of his early powers, in a mode that's clearly relaxed enough to get with the spirit of each different session.
To celebrate its 25th anniversary, the Emerson Quartet has made its first all-Haydn recording, featuring seven of his most famous quartets on two CDs. Presented chronologically, the program is arranged for utmost contrast of tonality, atmosphere, and character. The prevailing mood is joyous, as befits the occasion, though three quartets are in minor keys. The opening work, Op. 20, No. 5, is dark, brooding, and achingly beautiful. –Edith Eisler
The Emerson Quartet's recordings of the late Beethoven string quartets from 1994 and 1995 are by no means bad or even poor performances. The Emerson is clearly a superb quartet, arguably the best America has ever produced, with a strong tone, coherent intonation, and a cogent ensemble. No matter how difficult Beethoven's writing becomes – and in the late quartets, Beethoven's writing can become immensely difficult – the Emerson rarely shows any trace of effort or strain, but rather sails through the music with its virtuoso technique. But a virtuoso technique is the only basic requirement for playing Beethoven's late quartets. What the late quartets demand is not just virtuosity but intellectual, emotional, and spiritual depth. And while the Emerson surely has the intellectual depth and possibly the emotional depth, it certainly lacks the spiritual depth..