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Emerson String Quartet lights up Leighton

Observer Scene | Monday, April 18, 2005

In addition to Saturday evening’s concert, the Emerson String Quartet also held a two-hour master class in the Leighton Concert Hall that afternoon for chamber music students.

Students such as pianist Kui Min, cellist Noelle Thorn and violinist Leila Taschek performed chamber works for quartet members Eugene Drucker and Lawrence Dutton, including a piano trio by Dvorak and one of Beethoven’s string quartets.

The Emerson Quartet has made it a goal to educate the “next generation” of performers and make them aware of the potency behind music from the Classical and Romantic periods.

“Passing on the torch is important in our career,” Dutton said. “We want to convey to students that this music is alive and vital, and it still has importance.”

Dutton also hinted at the imagery conveyed by the works the Emerson Quartet played later that day.

“It conveys great emotion and the whole gamut of what is good and evil in the world,” he said.

Students responded to Saturday’s session with enthusiasm.

“[We were told] a lot about ensemble playing, dynamics, tempo, playing from section to section,” Thorn said. “It was really interesting. They had a lot of good things to say.”

Min was astounded by Dutton and Drucker’s methods at the master class.

“[It was an] absolutely stunning, dynamic and intense pedagogical approach,” he said. “Every single point that Mr. Dutton and Mr. Drucker brought out is right on the money, and one hour passes like a blink.

“I’m greatly amazed and inspired by their searching for perfection in an extremely professional way.”

Speaking generally about the Emerson Quartet, Dutton explained that along with performing and tutoring, the group specializes heavily in recording sessions with Deutsche Grammophon.

“Our mission has been recording mostly, working through the ‘masterpieces’ of Western music,” he said.

As classical music in general sees its place in the recording industry dwindling, the quartet is grateful for the successful partnership they have had with Grammophon since the late eighties.

“We’re one of the lucky ones who continue to make recordings, and Grammophon continues to thrive,” said violinist Philip Setzer. “There’s very little orchestra and opera being recorded now, but there’s also a lot more with the Internet, such as Iclassics.”

In addition to giving master class sessions at colleges while touring, the Emerson Quartet also serves as the Quartet-in-Residence at Stony Brook University in New York. They not only perform but also frequently give seminars at Carnegie Hall.

Dutton said he enjoys getting the opportunity to use a concert hall, such as Carnegie or the Leighton, as a venue with which to teach students.

“As a student you only get to work in small rooms,” he said. “A lot of students don’t normally get to perform in a big hall, and master classes are a good place to do that.”