Stories » Emerson String Quartet are 'top of their game' at Wigmore Hall / Financial Times

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Emerson String Quartet are 'top of their game' at Wigmore Hall / Financial Times

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Most birthday events end with some kind of celebratory finale. For its 40th anniversary recital, though, the Emerson String Quartet had other ideas. As an encore the players chose the slow movement from Beethoven's last string quartet, marked "Cantante e tranquillo", offering the balm of a soft, songful chorale - unexpected, but inspired. Formed in New York in 1976, the Emerson String Quartet has various claims to fame. It was one of the first quartets to alternate its leader; and since 2002 its members have played standing up (the cellist perches on a high seat). But from the start the most enduring attribute has been the sheer technical excellence of the quartet's playing. For precision and unanimity it is second to none.

The highlight of this busy 40th anniversary season has been the premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage's Shroud. Written for the Emerson Quartet and a co-commission between an armful of international music organisations including Wigmore Hall, the work was getting its first UK performance. It was performed with every ounce of the taut, incisive grip that is the mark of the Emerson String Quartet at its best. On either side, the players gave hardly less gripping performances of Beethoven's Op.95 and Tchaikovsky's String Quartet No.3, the dying, high chords of the latter's slow movement so perfectly in tune that it was almost uncanny. Forty years on, the Emerson String Quartet remains at the top of its game.