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Journeys: David Finckel's last recording with the ESQ

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Sony Classical is proud to announce the release of the label's second recording by the Emerson String Quartet: Journeys. Winner of nine Grammy® Awards and three Gramophone Awards, the Emerson's new album consists of two string sextets from the 1890s, Souvenir de Florence by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night) by Arnold Schoenberg. The Quartet is joined by two frequent collaborators, both acclaimed soloists and chamber musicians, American violist Paul Neubauer and British cellist Colin Carr.  

On the occasion of this new release, David Finckel spoke with Weekends on All Things Considered about the bittersweet close to to a decades-long partnership. Take a Listen

Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence, written in 1890, owes its title to the fact that the main theme of its slow movement was conceived while the composer was staying in Florence. The work is notable for its combination of warm Italianate lyricism and Germanic rigour with Russian dance and song. 

Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht, written in 1899 and the composer's first important work, is recognized as a masterpiece of late Romanticism. Unusually for a chamber piece, it is a symphonic poem, inspired by a poem by Richard Dehmel. A man and a woman are walking through a wood at night. The woman confesses that she is bearing the child of a man she does not love. The man tells her that the glory of the night, and the warmth that exists between them, will transfigure the child, and make it his own. 

This is the Emerson String Quartet's first recording since the 1980s of anything by Tchaikovsky, and its first of Schoenberg. Philip Setzer, one of the two interchanging violinists of the Quartet, says that the starting-point in planning the disc was the wish to do "something collaborative"; his violinist colleague Eugene Drucker describes the sonority of the string sextet as "richer, more grounded, deeper" than that of the quartet. Philip Setzer recalls that, when he was looking for a possible companion piece for Verklärte Nacht, "it jumped out at me that the Tchaikovsky had been written in the same decade." 

The title of Journeys suggests the inner life of both works. Philip Setzer comments: "Tchaikovsky's trip to Florence was certainly more than just a holiday: he was fighting depression at this point late in his life, and he created a work of uncommon beauty and excitement. But dark currents lie beneath its often bright surface. In the Schoenberg, by contrast, shimmering moonlight transfigures the darkness. The piece is a night journey through love and forgiveness."