March 31, 2008
Emerson String Quartet is joined by pianist Wu Han for April 13 concert
The Emerson String Quartet, one of the world's most esteemed chamber music ensembles for more than three decades, will be joined by pianist Wu Han for a concert at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 13, in the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium.
The quartet will perform Franz Schubert's String Quartet in A Minor, op. 29, no. 1, D804; and Leo Janácek's String Quartet No. 2 ("Intimate Letters"); and Wu Han will be featured in Robert Schumann's Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, op. 44.
Emerson String Quartet violinist Eugene Drucker will also present a free reading from his World War II musical novel, "The Savior," at 4 p.m. Saturday, April 12, in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City, as part of Iowa Public Radio's "Live from Prairie Lights" series.
The Schumann Piano Quintet holds a special meaning for Wu Han and the quartet. It is one the works with which she auditioned to become a student of the ensemble when it was in residence at the Hartt School. She and Emerson Quartet cellist David Finckel later married, and they not only perform and record as a duo but also founded the web-based recording label, ArtistLed (http://www.artistled.com/) to embody their performing and recording production values.
Wu Han now ranks among the world's most influential classical musicians, appearing regularly in venues across the United States, Europe and the Far East as both soloist and chamber musician. She and Finckel serve as artistic directors of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and Music@Menlo, a chamber music festival in Silicon Valley that has garnered international acclaim since its inception in 2003. Prior to launching Music@Menlo, they served for three seasons as artistic directors of SummerFest La Jolla in Southern California.
An article in Time magazine proclaimed the Emerson String Quartet -- Drucker and Philip Setzer (violins), Lawrence Dutton (viola) and Finckel (cello) -- "America's greatest quartet." Formed in the bicentennial year of the United States, the quartet took its name from the great American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Their list of achievements includes an acclaimed series of recordings exclusively documented by Deutsche Grammophon since 1987; eight Grammy Awards, including two for "Best Classical Album," an unprecedented honor for a chamber music group; three Gramophone Magazine Awards; and performances of the complete cycles of Beethoven, Bartók and Shostakovich quartets in major concert halls throughout the world.
For three decades, the group has collaborated with equally prominent artists including Emanuel Ax, Misha Dichter, Leon Fleisher, the Guarneri String Quartet, Thomas Hampson, Lynn Harrell, the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, Sir Paul McCartney, Menahem Pressler, David Shifrin, Richard Stoltzman and the late Mstislav Rostropovich and Isaac Stern.
Their current season comprises more than 80 worldwide engagements, including the festivals of Gstaad, Salzburg, Schwarzenberg, Merano, Ascona, Copenhagen, Cologne and Stockholm; London's Wigmore Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall; Vienna's Konzerthaus; and Cité de la Musique in Paris, The Emerson continues its residency at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, now in its 28th sold-out season, and appears in New York with pianist Gilbert Kalish for Lincoln Center's Great Performers and with pianist Yefim Bronfman at Carnegie Hall.
In 2000 the Emerson was named "Ensemble of the Year" by Musical America, and in March 2004 became the 18th recipient of the Avery Fisher Prize -- another first for a chamber ensemble.
In 1988, the quartet attracted national attention with the presentation of the six Bartók quartets in a single evening for its Carnegie Hall debut. The Emerson's subsequent release of the cycle received the 1989 Grammy Awards for "Best Classical Album" and "Best Chamber Music Performance" and Gramophone Magazine's 1989 "Record of the Year Award" -- the first time in the history of each award that a chamber music ensemble had ever received the top prize.
In March 1997, the Quartet released a seven-disc set of the complete Beethoven quartets and organized a series of performances over two seasons at New York's Lincoln Center entitled "Beethoven and the Twentieth Century," a total of eight concerts that each paired two Beethoven quartets with a twentieth-century composition. Initial reviews of this series were so strong that the remaining performances were sold out; the recording earned a Grammy Award for "Best Chamber Music Album."
The UI is one of the locations where the Emerson Quartet has performed a concert dedicated to some the complete Shostakovich quartets. The Emerson's recording of the Shostakovich Quartets live during three summers of performances at the Aspen Music Festival won the 2000 Grammy Awards for "Best Classical Album" and "Best Chamber Music Performance," as well as Gramophone Magazine's "Best Chamber Music Performance" Award for 2000.
"Intimate Voices," a recording of Grieg, Nielsen and Sibelius string quartets, and the complete Mendelssohn string quartets and octet, received 2005 Grammy awards for "Best Chamber Music Performance" and "Best Engineered Album, Classical."
The April 13 concert by the Emerson String Quartet and Wu Han is supported by Jordan L. and Jana E. Cohen, and William and Karen Rubright, through the University of Iowa Foundation.
Tickets are $32; UI student $15; senior citizen $28.80; youth $22.40.
The Hancher Auditorium business hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial 319-335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial 319-335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.
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