To be sure, chamber music is an experience for the ears, a chance to bathe the auditory nerves in the sounds of intertwined instrumental lines. However, it’s also an experience for the eyes. When you get to watch chamber music being played, you see the instruments in animated conversation, completing each other’s sentences, topping each other’s hyperbole, sympathizing with each other’s laments and also having the occasional spat.
This fall at the Hop, your ears and eyes can take in a variety of chamber music, beginning with the Emerson String Quartet—“the one indispensable quartet” (Newsday) on Saturday, September 30, at 8 pm, in the Hop’s Spaulding Auditorium. Next, on Saturday, October 14, 8 pm, two California groups, Del Sol Quartet and the piano duo ZOFO, team up for a program of contemporary music from the Pacific Rim. Then, on Wednesday, November 7, 7 pm, Hop pianist-in-residence Sally Pinkas and her friend, the noted clarinetist Patricia Shands, perform a wonderful program of 20th- and 21st-century music.
The Emersons, who have played together more than 40 years, play with “their own brand of robust sensitivity” (NPR) and a “lush, silky and, when the foursome digs down, full-throttled symphonic sound” (Los Angeles Times). Although audiences hear the enormous experience and authority the quartet has gained over nearly 40 years of playing together, there is always a bracing freshness to the musicians’ electrifying performances. Their longevity and vitality both as performers and as mentors to younger string quartets have earned them an exalted place among chamber groups—as well as an unparalleled list of achievements, including more than 30 acclaimed recordings, nine Grammys (including two for Best Classical Album), three Gramophone Awards, Musical America’s “Ensemble of the Year” and collaborations with many of the greatest artists of our time.
The quartet’s visit is a fantastic learning experience as well as a listening one, wrote Filippo Ciabatti, conductor of the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra. “As an orchestra conductor, I deeply believe that chamber music is one of the best ways to learn how to listen and to interact as musicians and human beings. Learning how to listen and interact is the first fundamental skill that an orchestra musician should have. Having the possibility to listen and observe the Emerson Quartet, one of the leading chamber music group in the world, is a great privilege and an artistic and educational invaluable opportunity for all of us.”
The Emerson’s program includes Mozart’s String Quartet No. 17 in B-flat Major, K. 458 (“The Hunt”), which derives its nickname from the hunting horn-like character of the opening theme and has taken on a pop culture life in numerous films; Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14, Op. 131, which broke the mold for string quartets of its time, unfolding without pause as a cohesive whole and marked by tremendous musical diversity; and British composer Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Shroud, (2016), commissioned for the Emerson String Quartet by an international consortium.
Said Turnage in a press release from publisher Boosey & Hawkes, “I grew up listening to the Emerson Quartet, having been a huge fan of their many recordings since my early 20s—in particular their Beethoven set, as well as their recordings of Bartók and Shostakovich. I love their precision and fabulous interplay. It was a real honor to write a work for this ensemble.” Shroud is Turnage’s first piece for the Emerson, though he wrote a concerto in 2010 for the ensemble’s cellist, Paul Watkins.