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The Emerson String Quartet’s Final Performance and Lasting Influence

October 25, 2023
Emerson String Quartet's Final Performance, October 22nd, 2023
Photographer: Da Ping Luo

NYT Critic’s Pick

Farewell to the Emerson String Quartet, a group that has beaten at the heart of chamber music in the United States, and far beyond, for almost half a century.

For more than half a century, the Emerson String Quartet has shared the art of string quartet performance in thousands of concerts across five continents. The ensemble served as the first resident string quartet of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center from 1982 through 1989 and has graced the Alice Tully Hall stage on countless occasions in subsequent decades, including CMS’s first complete cycle of Beethoven String Quartets. Given this long-standing relationship, CMS was honored to present the final performance of this legendary Quartet.


During their storied career, the ensemble broke new ground for quartet performance, becoming, for example, the first quartet in history to prove it possible to perform all six Bartók String Quartets in one night. The group has recorded virtually the entire standard quartet repertoire to unequalled acclaim, garnering numerous awards, including the first-ever Grammy for Best Classical Album awarded to a chamber ensemble.

Emerson String Quartet receiving the CMS Award For Extraordinary Service to Music

Photographer: Da Ping Luo

The Quartet has also dedicated itself to the next generation of chamber musicians through university teaching positions for more than four decades, and as individuals, they will continue to direct the string quartet program at Stony Brook University. The Quartet’s artistry and commitment to chamber music have undoubtedly inspired countless young string quartets to pursue this art form.


It is only fitting, after such dedication to every aspect of the art of string quartet performance, that the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center present the Emerson String Quartet with the CMS Award for Extraordinary Service to Chamber Music. Their accomplishments have left a substantial legacy, and their influence will continue to be felt long after their final concert.


This was a farewell with greatness.

Final Bows, Emerson String Quartet and David Finckel (middle), October 22nd, 2023

Photographer: Da Ping Luo