The Emerson String Quartet - Smithsonian Associates

"The performances were everything we have come to expect from this superb ensemble: technically resourceful, musically insightful, cohesive, full of character and always interesting."

— The New York Times

"The Emerson String Quartet...has the easy virtuosity, precise sense of ensemble, rhythmic vigor, and rich polished tone..."

— The Washington Post

"The Emerson performances represented an extraordinary fusion of experience and authority with audacity and freshness."

— The Boston Globe

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Emerson String Quartet

Starting July 31, Concerts Will Be On Sale for Current Smithsonian Associates Members (Available By Phone & Web).

The Emerson String Quartet returns for its 38th year at the Smithsonian. Violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, violist Lawrence Dutton, and cellist Paul Watkins perform a season that displays the range and unparalleled musicianship of an ensemble hailed as "the one indispensable quartet" by Newsweek.

2017-2018 Concert Prices: Members $50; Nonmembers $60

A great deal…and a great benefit!
Ticket buyers who are Smithsonian Associates donors at the Resident Patron ($600) level and above—and those that upgrade to this level—get reserved seating at all performances.

To Order Tickets: Click on the concert date links in the upper left or call Customer Service during our standard business hours. Please Note: There are no concert subscriptions for the 2017-2018 year, only individual tickets available.


Quartet Bio

The Emerson String Quartet has an unparalleled list of achievements over three decades: more than thirty acclaimed recordings, nine Grammys® (including two for Best Classical Album), three Gramophone Awards, the Avery Fisher Prize, Musical America’s "Ensemble of the Year" and collaborations with many of the greatest artists of our time.

The arrival of Paul Watkins in 2013 has had a profound effect on the Emerson Quartet. Mr. Watkins, a distinguished soloist, award-winning conductor, and devoted chamber musician, joined the ensemble in its 37th season, and his dedication and enthusiasm have infused the Quartet with a warm, rich tone and a palpable joy in the collaborative process. The reconfigured group has been greeted with impressive accolades. “One of the characteristics of the Emerson Quartet is that its players (the violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer and the violist Lawrence Dutton in addition, now, to Mr. Watkins) all have the ability and the instruments to produce a sweet and glossy sound—but do so sparingly. Instead, they establish a chromatic scale of timbres that range from dry and tart over clean and zesty all the way to lustrous and singing. Listening to them pass tiny rhythmic motifs around the group, I was struck by how evenly calibrated these timbres were.”  -The New York Times

The Quartet’s summer season began with engagements in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and a pair of concerts in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Following a tour of Japan, the Quartet performed at the Ravinia, Tanglewood, Chamber Music Northwest, Aspen, Domaine Forget, Toronto, Austin, Norfolk, Cape Cod and Mostly Mozart festivals. In a season of over 80 quartet performances, mingled with the Quartet members’ individual artistic commitments, Emerson highlights feature numerous concerts on both coasts and throughout North America. In October, Paul Watkins performs with the Emerson Quartet for the first time in Carnegie Hall.  The program includes the Schumann Piano Quintet with acclaimed pianist and colleague Yefim Bronfman.  Multiple tours of Europe comprise dates in Austria, Ireland, Switzerland, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. The Quartet continues its series at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC for its 35th season, and, in May, is presented by colleagues David Finckel and Wu Han for the two final season concerts at Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in Alice Tully Hall. Guest artists Colin Carr and Paul Neubauer join the Emerson in a program that also includes the New York premiere of Lowell Liebermann’s String Quartet No. 5, commissioned by a consortium of presenters through Music Accord

As an exclusive artist for SONY Classical, the Emerson recently released Journeys, its second CD on that label, featuring Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence and Schoenberg's Verklaerte Nacht. Future recordings are planned with Mr. Watkins.      

Formed in 1976 and based in New York City, the Emerson was one of the first quartets formed with two violinists alternating in the first chair position. In 2002, the Quartet began to stand for most of its concerts, with the cellist seated on a riser. The Emerson Quartet took its name from the American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson and is Quartet-in-Residence at Stony Brook University. In January of 2015, the Quartet will receive the Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award, Chamber Music America’s highest honor, in recognition of its significant and lasting contribution to the chamber music field.  

Individual Bios

Eugene Drucker, violin

Eugene DruckerViolinist Eugene Drucker, a founding member of the Emerson String Quartet, is also an active soloist. He has appeared with the orchestras of Montreal, Brussels, Antwerp, Liege, Hartford, Richmond, Omaha, Jerusalem and the Rhineland-Palatinate, as well as with the American Symphony Orchestra and Aspen Chamber Symphony. A graduate of Columbia University and the Juilliard School, where he studied with Oscar Shumsky, Mr. Drucker was concertmaster of the Juilliard Orchestra, with which he appeared as soloist several times. He made his New York debut as a Concert Artists Guild winner in the fall of 1976, after having won prizes at the Montreal Competition and the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels. Mr. Drucker has recorded the complete unaccompanied works of Bach, reissued by Parnassus Records, and the complete sonatas and duos of Bartók for Biddulph Recordings. His novel, The Savior, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2007 and has appeared in a German translation called Wintersonate, published by Osburg Verlag in Berlin. Mr. Drucker's compositional debut, a setting of four sonnets by Shakespeare, was premiered by baritone Andrew Nolen and the Escher String Quartet at Stony Brook in 2008; the songs have appeared as part of a 2-CD release called "Stony Brook Soundings," issued by Bridge Recordings in the spring of 2010. Eugene Drucker lives in New York with his wife, cellist Roberta Cooper, and their son Julian.
Violins: Antonius Stradivarius (Cremona, 1686), Samuel Zygmuntowicz (NY, NY 2002)


Philip Setzer, violin

Philip SetzerViolinist Philip Setzer, a founding member of the Emerson String Quartet, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and began studying violin at the age of five with his parents, both former violinists in the Cleveland Orchestra. He continued his studies with Josef Gingold and Rafael Druian, and later at the Juilliard School with Oscar Shumsky. In 1967, Mr. Setzer won second prize at the Marjorie Merriweather Post Competition in Washington, DC, and in 1976 received a Bronze Medal at the Queen Elisabeth International Competition in Brussels. He has appeared with the National Symphony, Aspen Chamber Symphony (David Robertson, conductor), Memphis Symphony (Michael Stern), New Mexico and Puerto Rico Symphonies (Guillermo Figueroa), Omaha and Anchorage Symphonies (David Loebel) and on several occasions with the Cleveland Orchestra (Louis Lane). He has also participated in the Marlboro Music Festival. Mr. Setzer has been a regular faculty member of the Isaac Stern Chamber Music Workshops at Carnegie Hall and the Jerusalem Music Center. His article about those workshops appeared in The New York Times on the occasion of Isaac Stern's 80th birthday celebration. He also teaches as Professor of Violin and Chamber Music at SUNY Stony Brook and has given master classes at schools around the world, including The Curtis Institute, London's Royal Academy of Music, The San Francisco Conservatory, UCLA, The Cleveland Institute of Music and The Mannes School. The Noise of Time, a groundbreaking theater collaboration between the Emerson Quartet and Simon McBurney--about the life of Shostakovich--was based on an original idea of Mr. Setzer's. In April of 1989, Mr. Setzer premiered Paul Epstein's Matinee Concerto. This piece, dedicated to and written for Mr. Setzer, has since been performed by him in Hartford, New York, Cleveland, Boston and Aspen. Recently, Mr. Setzer has also been touring and recording the piano trios of Schubert, Mendelssohn and Dvorak with David Finckel and Wu Han.
Violin: Samuel Zygmuntowicz (NY, NY 2011)    

Lawrence Dutton, viola

Lawrence DuttonLawrence Dutton, violist of the Emerson String Quartet, has collaborated with many of the world’s great performing artists, including Isaac Stern, Mstislav Rostropovich, Oscar Shumsky, Leon Fleisher, Sir Paul McCartney, Sir James Galway, Andre Previn, Walter Trampler, Menahem Pressler, Rudolf Firkusny, Lynn Harrell, Yefim Bronfman, Joseph Kalichstein, Misha Dichter, Jan DeGaetani, Edgar Meyer, Joshua Bell, Emanuel Ax and Elmar Oliveira among others He has also performed as guest artist with numerous chamber music ensembles such as the Juilliard and Guarneri Quartets, the Beaux Arts Trio and the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio. Since 2001, Mr. Dutton has been the Artistic Advisor of the Hoch Chamber Music Series, presenting three concerts at Concordia College in Bronxville, NY. He has been featured on three albums with the Grammy winning jazz bassist John Patitucci on the Concord Jazz label and with the Beaux Arts Trio recorded the Shostakovich Piano Quintet, Op. 57, and the Fauré G minor Piano Quartet, Op. 45, on the Philips label.  His Aspen Music Festival recording with Jan DeGaetani for Bridge records was nominated for a Grammy award. For BRAVO television he recorded works by Stravinsky and Hindemith. Mr. Dutton has appeared as soloist with many American and European orchestras including those of Germany, Belgium, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Colorado, and Virginia, among others.  He has also appeared as guest artist at the music festivals of Aspen, Santa Fe, Ravinia, La Jolla, Heifetz Institute, Great Mountains Festival in Korea, Chamber Music Northwest, and the Rome Chamber Music Festival. With the late Isaac Stern he had collaborated in the International Chamber Music Encounters both at Carnegie Hall and in Jerusalem.  Currently Professor of Viola and Chamber Music at Stony Brook University and at the Robert McDuffie School for Strings at Mercer University in Georgia, Mr. Dutton began violin studies with Margaret Pardee and on viola with Francis Tursi at the Eastman School. He earned his Bachelors and Masters degrees at the Juilliard School, where he studied with Lillian Fuchs and has received Honorary Doctorates from Middlebury College in Vermont, The College of Wooster in Ohio, Bard College in New York and The Hartt School of Music in Connecticut. He resides in Bronxville, NY with his wife violinist Elizabeth Lim-Dutton and their three sons Luke, Jesse and Samuel. 
Mr. Dutton exclusively uses Thomastik Spirocore stringsViola:  Samuel Zygmuntowicz (NY, NY 2003).

Paul Watkins, cello

Paul WatkinsPaul Watkins enjoys a distinguished career as cellist and conductor. Born in 1970, he studied with William Pleeth, Melissa Phelps and Johannes Goritzki, and was appointed principal cellist of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1990 at the age of 20. He made his concerto debut at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra under Yakov Kreizberg. He now performs regularly with all the major British orchestras (including seven appearances at the BBC Proms) and many overseas orchestras including the Hong Kong Philharmonic, Royal Flemish Philharmonic, Konzerthausorchester Berlin and the RAI National Symphony Orchestra of Turin. A member of the Nash Ensemble from 1997 to 2013, Mr. Watkins joined the Emerson String Quartet in May 2013. He is a regular participant at festivals and chamber music series, including New York’s Lincoln Center and Music@Menlo, and regularly performs with the world’s finest musicians, including Menahem Pressler, Jaime Laredo, Lars Vogt, Christian Tetzlaff and Vadim Repin. Highlights of recent seasons include solo recitals at the Wigmore Hall, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester and Queens Hall, Edinburgh, his debut at Carnegie Hall performing Brahms’s Double Concerto with Daniel Hope, as well as the premiere of a new concerto written especially for him by Mark-Anthony Turnage. Recent releases under his exclusive Chandos Records contract include Britten’s Cello Symphony, the Delius, Elgar and Lutoslawski cello concertos, and discs of Martinu’s and Mendelssohn’s music for cello and piano, and an ongoing series of Britsh sonatas with his brother Huw Watkins.  In 2009 he became the first ever Music Director of the English Chamber Orchestra, and also served as Principal Guest Conductor of the Ulster Orchestra from 2009 to 2012. Since winning the 2002 Leeds Conducting Competition he has conducted all the major British orchestras, the Royal Flemish Philharmonic, Swedish and Vienna Chamber Orchestras, Prague Symphony, Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, Tampere Philharmonic, Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic and the Melbourne Symphony, Queensland and Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestras.                                                      
Cello:  Domenico Montagnana and Matteo Goffriller in Venice, c.1730.  


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