University Music Society closes its Chamber Arts Series tonight with the internationally acclaimed Emerson String Quartet. The quartet will perform tonight at Rackham Auditorium.

Paul Wong
The unconventional aesthetic of the Emerson String Quartet has earned them international acclaim.<br><br>Courtesy of UMS

This season represents the 25th anniversary of the quartet, who began performing together in 1976. Their name is a tribute to the American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. The quartet, which is comprised of violinists Eugene Drucker and Phillip Setzer, violist Lawrence Dutton and cellist David Finckel, is renowned for its violation of conventional approaches to chamber music. They often perform facing the audience and with wide physical separation between members, and at other times with members in a close semicircle oblivious to the audience. These varying musical approaches, combined with their artistry have earned the group six Grammy Awards including “Best Classical Album” and “Best Chamber Music performance.” Their most recent acclaim has resulted from a five-part concert series in the spring of 2000 where they performed the complete 15-quartet cycle of Shostakovich.

Tonight”s performance will include the works of Haydn, Beethoven, Kurtg and Bartk. The program”s first piece, Haydn”s “Quartet in g minor,” is a readdition to Emerson”s repertoire, after playing it several years ago. The piece will be followed by Beethoven”s “Quartet in F minor” a work that alternating first violinist Drucker categorizes as having “tremendous energy,” despite its short length of 20 minutes.

Emerson follows Beethoven with a contemporary twelve-minute quartet titled “Microluden, Op 13.” The amount of contrast in harmonic language contained within these twelve micro-loops, or short pieces, can be categorized as “modal bordering on tonal,” according to Drucker. “It continues to fascinate audiences wherever we”ve played.”

The Bartk piece, “Quartet No. 4,” follows the Kurtg number, not only because they are both Hungarian composers, but also because the precision and tone of the piece compliments the Beethoven in its character, and provides a contrast to the Kurtg. “Bartk is continuing the tradition of being able to extract the maximum value from motivic and thematic material. In that sense he is directly related to Beethoven,” said Drucker.

This performance will wrap up a four-stop Midwest tour for the group following concerts in Urbana, Ill., Indianapolis, Ind. and West Lafayette, Ind. The future for the group includes a recording session for a two-CD set of Haydn”s works, set for release in the fall, and next January, a three concert series of those works to celebrate the group”s 25th anniversary.

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