The Emerson String Quartet

Review: Emerson String Quartet | Dallas Chamber Music | Caruth Auditorium

And One-Fourth to Grow On

The Emerson String Quartet, boasting a new member, does what it does best for Dallas Chamber Music.

published Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Photo: Lisa Mazzucco
The Emerson String Quartet

Dallas — The Emerson String Quartet’s Monday performance marked their first Dallas appearance since Welsh cellist Paul Watkins joined the quartet last May, replacing David Finckel. Finckel, along with his wife Wu Han, appeared in recital in Ft. Worth earlier this month; read the review here.

Before the concert, which was presented by Dallas Chamber Music, there was plenty of buzz about how the new guy would fit in with the others. Watkins represents the first personnel change for the group since 1979.

The verdict: Paul Watkins has some big shoes to fill, and while there is still a bit of wiggle room in the toes, he is growing into them nicely.

The Emerson Quartet is known for its outstanding technical precision, and Monday night’s concert was no exception. First on the program was Mozart’s Quartet in E-flat major, K. 428. While there have certainly been more moving and even more musically interesting performances of Mozart, the four got the Mozartean style spot-on. Violinist Eugene Drucker, playing the first part, made interesting vibrato choices, beginning sustained notes in the second, Andante movement without vibrato and beginning the vibration well after the attack. This strategy creates extra dramatic tension for the listener. Details such as this were evident throughout the performance—while they may not have been especially daring choices, they were well-thought-out. That, indeed, was the overall effect of the Mozart—thoughtful, stylistically accurate, but not always emotionally engaging.

There was one notable exception: violist Lawrence Dutton had lots to do in the Mozart, and that was a gift to listeners. While each musician in the quartet is very fine, Dutton’s playing Monday night was consistently extraordinary. The sound he produced was near-ideal: rich, resonant, and full, and his bow control is well-nigh magical.

Second on Monday’s program was the 14th of Shostakovich’s 15 string quartets. Shostakovich dedicated this quartet to the cellist of the Beethoven Quartet, the group who premiered all but the first of the quartets. Perhaps as a result, the work has an unusually prominent cello part, and it is here that listeners were truly able to evaluate Paul Watkins’ playing. Much of what he did was musically and technically exciting, and he promises to bring new energy to a group that has been playing together for decades. He has not fully integrated into the ensemble, to be sure—he’s only been playing with them for a year, and the others have been playing together since Watkins was a schoolboy. But that will come with time

The highlight of the evening, surprisingly, was the Mendelssohn Quartet in F minor, Op. 80. For those who associate Mendelssohn with sparkling gaiety, the darkness of this seldom-performed quartet can come as a shock. He wrote it, though, as a musical eulogy to his beloved sister Fanny, and it is as if his grief over her death is made manifest in this piece. Felix Mendelssohn himself died at the age of 39, two months after composing this quartet, and only six months after his sister’s death.

The Emerson Quartet’s performance was as correct as is expected of this ensemble, but also was profound, seemingly inviting listeners to meditate on mortality. Thanks For Reading

Dates, Prices, & Other Details

Comment on this Article

Share this article on Social Media
Click or Swipe to close
And One-Fourth to Grow On
The Emerson String Quartet, boasting a new member, does what it does best for Dallas Chamber Music.
by J. Robin Coffelt

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Click or Swipe to close
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web

Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:

Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:

TheaterJones Section:

Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  

Your Name:
Your Email Adress:

please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :