The Emerson Quartet is one of the world's great chamber ensembles, especially known for its exhilarating performances of twentieth-century classics. Founded in 1976, the Quartet was named in honor of the New England poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. The two remaining founding members, violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, both won the Bronze Medal at the 1976 Queen Elisabeth of Belgium International Violin Competition. The two of them alternate between first and second violin in the Quartet.
Previously, Eugene Drucker had won a prize at the International Violin Competition in Montreal. He was born in New York and has a B.A. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University, and an Artist Diploma from the Juilliard School of Music, where he studied with Oscar Shumsky. He has recorded the complete solo violin works of Bach, and Bartok's sonatas and violin duos. He plays a 1686 Stradivari violin.
Philip Setzer is a native of Cleveland, Ohio, and also a pupil of Oscar Shumsky at Juilliard. His parents were both members of the Cleveland Orchestra and in Cleveland his violin teachers were Joseph Gingold and Rafael Drurian, both concertmasters of the orchestra. Setzer is a Visiting Professor of Violin at the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford, and in 1997 participated as a member of the faculty in the Isaac Stern Chamber Music Workshop at Carnegie Hall, and in 1998 at Stern's Chamber Music Encounter in Jerusalem. He premiered Paul Epstein's Matinee Concerto in 1989. His violin is a 1793 Nicolus Lupot made in Orleans.
Violist Lawrence Dutton is also is on the faculty at Hartt and participates in the Chamber Music Encounters in Israel. He earned Bachelors and Masters Degrees at Juilliard, where his viola teacher was Lilian Fuchs. Earlier, he studied at Eastman School with Francis Tursi. He is also a member of the Masters Piano Quartet. His instrument is a Pietro Giovanni Mantegazza dated Milan, 1796.
Cellist David Finkel also tours extensively as a cello soloist with his wife, the cellist Wu Han. He debuted in New York in 1998 and made his first European and Japanese recital tours during the same season. He is a director of ArtistLed, the first Interned-based recording company to be owned and directed by musicians, and in 1998 became artistic director of the La Jolla SummerFest chamber music festival.
The Emerson Quartet gives over a hundred concerts annually. They have won four Grammy Awards, one for "Best Classical Album" and Gramophone Magazine's "Record of the Year Award." Their set of the complete Bartok Quartets (1987) is the version of choice. They have also recorded Ives and Barber Quartets, works by Meyers and Rorem, and in a three-year project, the complete Shostakovich Quartets in live recordings made at the Aspen Music Festival.
- Joseph Stevenson (All Music Guide)