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Emerson String Quartet (Photo credit: Jurgen Frank)

Emerson String Quartet Announces Retirement

Originally established at Julliard in 1976, the string quartet is set to retire at the end of the 2023 summer season, marking a 47-year tenure


The Emerson String Quartet comprises violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, violist Lawrence Dutton, and cellist Paul Watkins.

After their retirement, all members will continue to perform and teach individually. As a group, they will coach and mentor young ensembles through the Emerson String Quartet Institute at Stony Brook University, along with former cellist David Finckel, who played with the quartet for 34 years.  

The quartet’s original members were Drucker, Setzer, violist Guillermo Figueroa Jr., and cellist Eric Wilson. In 1977, Dutton joined the group; Finckel joined in 1979 and was succeeded by Watkins in 2013. 

Named “America’s greatest quartet” by Time Magazine, the ensemble is the recipient of the Avery Fisher Prize, Musical America’s “Ensemble of the Year” Award, nine GRAMMYs, and three Gramophone Awards.  

The group’s penultimate season includes the New York premiere of André Previn’s “Penelope,” at Carnegie Hall in January 2022, featuring soprano Renée Fleming, actress Uma Thurman, and pianist Simone Dinnerstein

This October, the quartet will return to the Chamber Music Society of Louisville to perform the second half of a Beethoven cycle they began in early 2020; their itinerary includes performing in Houston, Seattle, San Francisco, and New York.

In 2022, they will embark on a six-city tour of Europe with the first three concerts of a Shostakovich cycle at London’s Southbank Centre, to be completed the following November.

“Looking back on more than four decades of life in the Emerson String Quartet, it is with a mixture of pride and nostalgia that we announce our retirement at the end of the summer of 2023,” said Drucker in the press release. 

“In addition to the great music we’ve been privileged to share with audiences and with each other, it is the opportunity to connect with close friends that have meant the most to us over the years,” he continued.

“Now, as we contemplate our future careers, which will afford us the opportunity to continue performing as individuals and to pass the fruits of our experience on to younger generations of chamber players, we also wish to express our gratitude to all the instrumentalists, singers, composers, actors and directors with whom we have been honored to collaborate,” he concluded. 

Details about the American ensemble’s final season will be announced at a later date.

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