Friday, December 14 • Ridgewood News Article
On Sunday afternoon, December 16 at 3 PM, the venerable Emerson String Quartet and guest cellist, David Finckel will return to Parlance Chamber Concerts. Their concert will trace a wide emotional arc, ranging from nostalgic reflection to celebratory exuberance. The world-renowned ensemble will perform four masterpieces by Franz Schubert, Samuel Barber, Dmitri Shostakovich, and George Walker.
About the Emerson String Quartet and David Finckel
The Emerson String Quartet has been a dominant force in the chamber music scene for more than 40 years. During that time, they have amassed an unparalleled list of achievements including more than thirty acclaimed recordings, nine Grammys®, Musical America’s “Ensemble of the Year,” and collaborations with many of the greatest artists of our time. Formed during the bicentennial year of 1976, the quartet took its name from the American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. Violinist Eugene Drucker recalls, “We chose our name because we liked what Emerson stood for. We knew that he was a great idealist and had a profound effect on many people in the arts. He also espoused a lot of good social ideas.”
Over the years, the quartet has more than lived up to Emerson’s inspiration. The ensemble has set new standards of quartet virtuosity and is esteemed both for their penetrating interpretations of traditional repertoire and their adventurous forays into innovative musical territory. The Emerson Quartet has mentored myriad young ensembles and helped trigger the current renaissance in contemporary string quartet playing.
In 2013, the Emerson’s longtime cellist, David Finckel, retired from his position in the quartet, turning his chair over to the internationally acclaimed Welsh cellist, Paul Watkins. On the second half of Sunday afternoon’s concert, Finckel and Watkins will be heard side-by-side in a performance of one of the greatest masterpieces of the chamber music repertoire, Schubert’s Quintet in C for two violins, viola, and two cellos.
About The Program
The concert will begin with George Walker’s poignant Lyric for Strings. Walker chaired the music department of Rutgers University for many years and lived in Montclair until his death this past August at the age of 96. The first African-American composer to win a Pulitzer Price, he studied at the Curtis Institute of Music — piano with Rudolph Serkin and composition with Rosario Scalero, teacher of Samuel Barber — becoming the school’s first African-American graduate in 1945. Lyric was composed soon after his graduation as an elegy for his beloved grandmother. It is a deeply touching meditation on love and the ephemerality of life.
The second work on the program, Dmitri Shostakovich’s 8th String Quartet, was composed in 1960 in the war-decimated city of Dresden. Shostakovich had come there to compose a film score but found himself overwhelmed by the sight of the still-bombed-out city. He fell into a creative fever, composing the five-movement work during three sleepless days and nights. Dedicated to the victims of war and fascism, Shostakovich’s most popular string quartet also contains an undercurrent of autobiographical contemplation. Each movement features themes based on his musical signature (D, E-flat, C, and B) interspersed with dreamlike reminiscences of moments from his earlier compositions.
As a counterpart to George Walker’s Lyric for Strings, the first half will be bookended by the best-known American composition of the 20th century, Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Its expressive dignity and deeply contemplative spirit have long established Adagio for Strings as our nation’s anthem of eulogy. As a gesture of remembrance and healing, the Emerson Quartet performed the work in New York City several days after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
The final work on Sunday’s program will be the crowning masterpiece of Schubert’s chamber oeuvre, the C-major String Quintet. Completed only weeks before his death at the age of 31, the quintet is illuminated by soaring, radiant melodies as it vacillates in mood between moments of otherworldly serenity and swaggering, gypsy-inflected defiance. In his last instrumental work, Schubert unleashed a musical revolution that continues to reverberate to the present day.
The performance will take place this Sunday, December 16, from 3:00 PM to approximately 5:15 PM.
The event will take place at West Side Presbyterian Church, 6 South Monroe Street, Ridgewood. Free parking and childcare for children 3 to 6. Tickets at the door: Adults $50; Seniors (65+): $40; Young Adults (21 – 39): $30; Students (under 21): $20