Emerson String Quartet has new member, keeps standards
Change has finally come to the Emerson String Quartet, the American ensemble that for more than three decades has been one of the world's top quartets, and, many say, the top quartet.
The Emerson's first new member since its founding in 1976 is English cellist Paul Watkins, who began rehearsing with the group in May. After weeks of intensive rehearsals, the new Emerson gave its first concert at the end of May and continued with concerts at summer music festivals.
Founding cellist David Finckel left to pursue other artistic and personal goals, but certainly not to take it easy. He and his pianist wife, Wu Han, are co-artistic directors of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York City and of the Music at Menlo Chamber Music Festival and Institute in Atherton, Calif.
The Emerson String Quartet will open the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society season Sept. 27 at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland. The program is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Quartet No. 18 in E flat major, K. 428; Benjamin Britten's Quartet No. 3; and Ludwig van Beethoven's Quartet No. 9 in C, Op. 59, No. 3.
Watkins, 43, brings strikingly diverse experience to his new position. He was principal cellist of the BBC Symphony, has made commercial recordings as a solo cellist playing concerti, is a member of the Nash Ensemble and is conductor and music director of the English Chamber Orchestra — all based in London.
He says he's driven by “a desire to make music as often and with as great a variety as I can. I suppose the closest analogy is that a lot of sportsmen and women will often be good at a sport or two other than their main sport. In Europe, soccer players are often great golfers. I think some musicians are like that. We like to explore the widest variety of music, but that's not true for everyone.”
Watkins and his family moved to Westchester County, just north of New York City, in April. His wife, Jennifer, is the daughter of outstanding musicians — violinist Jaime Laredo and the late pianist Ruth Laredo. Their daughters are Emily, 11, and Eliza, 6.
He won't rank the various kinds of music making he does, but he will make comparisons.
“With my personal experience of having played all the Beethoven symphonies and conducted most of them, now having the chance to explore his quartets is a much more intense experience,” Watkins says. “It's no accident a lot of great composers from all eras, from the classical onward, have reserved some of their deepest and most intimate thoughts for the string quartet. It is a deep, intimate medium that does not have the showiness or pizzazz of an orchestral concert, but what it makes up in those terms is an incredibly passionate dialogue.”
Mark Kanny is classical music critic of Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.