Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Front Row Seat with the Emerson

For the second of three concerts, we once again sat in the front row at Alice Tully Hall to hear and watch the world renowned Emerson String Quartet play the incredibly challenging chamber music of Antonin Dvorak and Leos Janacek. To be that close is a tremendous privilege, particularly in the case of the Emerson, because they are famous for communicating closely with each other by employing a quick look, displaying an alert eye, waiting with an anticipatory hand. They are the most democratic and collaborative of musical groups, always striving to work together, to make their sound as whole and integral as possible. If they lose that sense of togetherness, they have lost everything. But if they can hold on to it, as they invariably do, they can wow their audiences with their passion, their solidity, their sense of wholeness. They are such an accomplished and professional musical ensemble. Nothing seems to faze them, to keep them from near-perfect performances again and again.

Each member has his distinctive personality. Philip Setzer, often the first violinist, is steady, undemonstrative, and highly skilled. Eugene Drucker, who alternates with Setzer, also is unemotional, at least on the surface, and is similarly skilled, but his intellectual approach to the music conceals a tremendous pent-up passion for the romantic music they are playing. David Finkel, the cellist, often smiling, constantly looking to his companions for cues and leads, plays his instrument with flawless delight. Finally, Larry Drucker, the violist, who gets to do more during the Dvorak concerts, as Dvorak, too, was a violist, sways softly to the music, evincing a sense of being entranced by what they are playing that is undetectable in the others. Together, they make a beautiful sound that never lets the audience down. What a thrill!

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