|Photo by Tom Emerson|
Displaying terrific tonal balance, pinpoint attacks, excellent choices in tempo, and wonderfully coordinated dynamics, the Emerson String Quartet was in complete command throughout the evening. Opening with Haydn’s String Quartet in D Minor (Op. 76, No. 2) (“Quinten”), the ensemble (viollinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, violist Laurence Dutton, and cellist Paul Watkins) excelled in the little nuances without losing sight of the arc of the piece. They nudged notes ahead, diminuendoed and crescendo totally together, created resonant pizzicattos, added a zing or two and quick upwards glissandos for the lively finale.
With Drucker taking over the first violin role from Setzer, Beethoven’s String Quartet in A Major (Op. 18, No. 5) received an exceptional interpretation with alert, exciting playing from beginning to end. Even the Haydnesque pauses had a delightful bit of tension that made them an integral part of the piece. The variations in the third movement swayed from the refined to the rustic and the fourth was crowned with a nimble and playful attitude.
After intermission, the foursome led off with Beethoven’s String Quartet in F Major (Op. 18, No. 1), launching into the first movement with an incredible sense of interplay so that the person who had the leading line could always be heard. First violinist Setzer’s emotive solo in the second movement, “Adagio affettuoso ed appassionato,” was followed by spacious pauses that again seemed to acknowledge Haydn. Setzer’s execution of a blitz of notes highlighted the third movement and the ensemble wrapped it all up in the fourth con brio
The concert concluded with the ensemble (Drucker back at first violin) giving a stellar performance of Haydn’s String quartet in D Major (Op. 76, No. 5). Again the tonal balance was remarkable and always lovely. Tempos were lively and engaging – especially the galloping passages in the last movement, “Finale: Presto,” which also contained an enticing fadeaway before winding things up robustly.