The Emerson String Quartet has spent more than four decades as one of the world’s premier chamber music ensembles. “With musicians like this,” wrote a reviewer for The Times (London), “there must be some hope for humanity.” The Quartet has made more than 35 acclaimed recordings, and has been honored with nine Grammys (including two for Best Classical Album), three Gramophone Classical Music Awards, the Avery Fisher Prize, and Musical America’s “Ensemble of the Year” Award. The ESQ has commissioned works from some of today’s most esteemed composers, and has partnered in performance with leading soloists such as Renée Fleming, Barbara Hannigan, Evgeny Kissin, Emanuel Ax, Yefim Bronfman, James Galway, Edgar Meyer, Mstislav Rostropovich, Menahem Pressler, Leon Fleisher, André Previn, and Isaac Stern.
The Emerson’s extensive discography includes the complete string quartets of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Bartók, Webern, and Shostakovich, as well as multi-CD sets of major works by Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, and Dvořák. In October 2020, the group released a CD of Schumann’s three quartets for the Pentatone label. Deutsche Grammophon recently reissued its box set of the Emerson Complete Recordings on the label, now expanded to 55 discs. The Quartet’s final recording, a collaboration with soprano Barbara Hannigan, features music by Schoenberg, Hindemith, Berg, and Chausson; the sessions were filmed by acclaimed director Mathieu Amalric.
Formed in 1976 and based in New York City, the Emerson String Quartet was one of the first quartets whose violinists alternate in the first-violin position. The group, which takes its name from the American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, serves as Quartet-in-Residence at Stony Brook University. In 2013, Paul Watkins, a distinguished soloist and award-wining conductor, joined the original members of the Quartet after the departure of cellist David Finckel