The Emerson String Quartet may have had their final concert with founding cellist David Finckel last night in D.C., but for their hometown swan song, they offered an intimate performance this past Monday at WQXR's Greene Space. When asked about his decision to leave the ensemble after more than 30 years by WQXR morning host Jeff Spurgeon (who was laying it on thick, using words like "esteemed" and "august" like they were prepositions), Finckel said simply that it was "time to climb new mountains" that playing full time in a string quartet don't permit. Along with his ongoing work as co-artistic director of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Finckel hinted that he wanted to take on Bach's Cello Suites, among other projects.
In between excerpts from Tchiakovsky's Souvenirs de Florence and Schubert's Rosamunde, the quartet offered a performance of Schoenberg's Transfigured Night (with Paul Neubauer on viola and Colin Carr on cello) that stunned and riveted in such close quarters. Regardless of the occasion, it was a privilege to hear it in person.
The quartet has one more performance this month at the Montreal Chamber Music Festival before taking a brief hiatus to break in new cellist Paul Watkins. Despite being in their 37th season, the remaining members of the quartet (Eugene Drucker, Philip Setzer, and Lawrence Dutton) aren't going anywhere anytime soon.