City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

EIF 2016: Emerson String Quartet, Queen's Hall, Review

By Barbara Bryan - Posted on 19 August 2016

Emerson String Quartet together
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Queen's Hall
Emerson String Quartet
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Emerson String Quartet
Eugene Drucker (violin), Philip Setzer (violin), Lawrence Dutton (viola), Paul Watkins (cello)

Every morning during the Edinburgh International Festival the Queen’s Hall is the focal point for chamber music concerts and the artists performing in this morning’s concert were the renowned Emerson String Quartet – Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer on violin, Lawrence Dutton on viola, and Paul Watkins playing the cello.

In this recital they performed a selection of composers from the eighteenth and nineteenth century beginning with Schubert’s String Quartet in A minor ‘Rosamunde.’ It was written in 1824, a time when Schubert was becoming despairing over the fact he had been diagnosed with syphilis and realised with a certainty he had only a limited time to live. Indeed, he did four years after the quartet was premiered.

When the quartet came onto the platform only the cellist sat down, the string players remained standing. Philip Setzer was the first violinist in this quartet. They are all virtuoso musicians who blend perfectly as an ensemble, something that was particularly obvious in the first movement of this quartet in which musical emotions oscillate between optimism and despair.

Joseph Haydn was a prodigious writer in all musical fields. With chamber music, he composed a total of sixty-eight quartets. The Emerson String Quartet chose to play his String Quartet in D major no 5 with Eugene Drucker as the first violinist. All four movements in this composition afford the musicians the opportunity to display their virtuosity as no instrument particularly dominated the quartet. Their sensitive interpretation of the music came to the fore in the second movement when they blended harmoniously quite beautifully.

The final work on the programme was Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No 3 in E flat minor. And like much of Tchaikovsky’s music the first and third movements are steeped in emotion. Riddled with self-doubt Tchaikovsky wrote to his brother soon after the first performance deprecating his skills as a composer, but his pessimism was unwarranted as the work received much praise.

Eugene Drucker was the first violinist and again each musician displayed their extraordinary talent and created a memorable interpretation of this emotionally, expressive composition that concludes with a flurry.

Performed Friday 19 August,
Tickets: £9-£31.50