CONTACT: WINSTON BARCLAY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0073; fax (319) 384-0024
Grammy-winning Emerson Quartet presents two all-Beethoven concerts
Sept. 14 & 16
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Emerson String Quartet, whose seven-CD "Beethoven
Cycle" won the 1998 Grammy Award for "Best Chamber Music Performance,"
will present two all-Beethoven concerts at the University of Iowa -- 8
p.m. Monday and Wednesday, Sept. 14 and 16, in Clapp Recital Hall.
The concerts, presented as part of Hancher Auditorium's 1998-99 chamber
music programming, will be accompanied by a free discussion-with-music
about Beethoven's late quartets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15 in the Iowa
City Public Library. The discussion, featuring musicologist Ben Korstvedt
and the Emerson String Quartet, will be telecast live on the library's
The audience at each of the concerts will be invited to remain in the
hall for a post-performance discussion with the musicians, moderated by
Hancher assistant director Judith Hurtig, secretary of the executive board
of Chamber Music America.
On Sept. 14 the Emerson String Quartet -- violinists Eugene Drucker
and Philip Setzer, violist Lawrence Dutton and cellist David Finckel --
will perform Beethoven's Quartet in A Major, op. 18, no. 5; the Quartet
in F Minor, op. 95; and the Quartet in C-sharp Minor, op. 131.
The Sept 16 program is the Quartet in A Minor, op. 132; and the Quartet
in C Major, op. 59, no. 3.
Fortune magazine reviewer Ed Brown greeted the Emerson's "Beethoven
Cycle" with these words: "With dozens of recordings of Beethoven's
string quartets already on the market, even the most ardent classical music
fan has to wonder: Do we really need another collection of these works?
Well, we do if the recording is from the Emerson String Quartet, arguably
the world's best group of chamber musicians."
Duncan Druce wrote in England's Gramophone magazine, "The Emersons
give us playing of exceptional technical accomplishment and an unusually
wide expressive range. They continually offer new insights into some endlessly
enthralling music. Do hear them."
The Beethoven set has been regarded as the pinnacle of the Emerson String
Quartet's stellar two-decade career. The members of the quartet consider
their current playing of the Beethoven quartets as an expression of mature
human experience, as well as musical skill. "All of us have gone through
a lot of experiences," Drucker says. "We've become fathers, we've
lost loved ones, and every bit of this goes into the total of what you
bring to the music."
But they also recognize that their approach to Beethoven is extreme
in their attempt to convey Beethoven's intense and revolutionary ideas.
"I know our recordings are challenging," Dutton says. "None
are going to be safe for the listener. Because I think we looked hard at
what Beethoven wanted, to the point where we really pushed the envelope.
I haven't heard any other quartet recording go this far, to such extremes
. . . but that's what Beethoven was about."
The 1998 Grammy Award was the Emerson's third, and they have also won
Gramophone's Record of the Year Award -- the first chamber music ensemble
ever to win the magazine's top honor.
Their artistry has been the subject of two award-winning films. Their
schedule of more than 100 concerts each season takes them to the world's
musical capitals and has included benefit concerts to fight AIDS, world
hunger and children's diseases.
Formed during the U.S. bicentennial, the quartet took its name from
the great American philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Corporate sponsor for the two Clapp Hall concerts is Meacham Travel
Service through the University of Iowa Foundation.
Ben Korstvedt, who will join the quartet in the Sept. 15 discussion
of Beethoven's late quartets at the Iowa City Public Library, has written
extensively on the music of Anton Bruckner, and he is now completing a
monograph on Bruckner's Eighth Symphony for Cambridge University Press.
He is working on a Bruckner book through a fellowship from the National
Endowment for the Humanities. The discussion is free and no tickets are
The late quartets capture the anguish of Beethoven, deaf and near death.
"These pieces are like the keys to the spiritual kingdom," Dutton
suggests. "I think when he was very sick he probably did get out of
his body and travel away from his earthly being." Setzer adds, "Beethoven
was at the end of his life, standing on the edge of a cliff . . . an incredible
genius filled with emotion and sadness, teetering on the edge of madness."
Tickets for each all-Beethoven concert by the Emerson String Quartet
are $25 ($20 for UI students and senior citizens, and half price for audience
members 17 and younger) from the Hancher Auditorium box office.
Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa,
dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is
toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged
to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases
to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option
of payroll deduction.
People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services
should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office
personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair
access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is
equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.