The Emerson String Quartet has maintained its stature as one of the world's premier chamber music ensembles for more than four decades. The quartet has made more than 30 acclaimed recordings, and has been honored with nine Grammys® (including two for Best Classical Album), three Gramophone Awards, the Avery Fisher Prize, and Musical America's "Ensemble of the Year". The Emerson frequently collaborates with some of today's most esteemed composers to premiere new works, keeping the string quartet art form alive and relevant. They have partnered in performance with stellar soloists including Reneé Fleming, Barbara Hannigan, Evgeny Kissin, Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman, to name a few.
During the 2018-2019 season the Emerson continues to perform as the quartet in residence at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. for its 40th season and returns to perform with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. The group's North American appearances include a performance at New York's Alice Tully Hall, and appears around North America that include the Library of Congress in Washington DC, Denver, Vancouver, Seattle, Houston, Indianapolis, Detroit, the Yale School of Music and University of Georgia, among others. The quartet also embarks on two European tours, performing in major venues in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. During the summer of 2019, the Emerson will perform at Tanglewood, Ravinia, and the Aspen Music Festivals.
Other North American highlights include subsequent performances of Shostakovich and The Black Monk: A Russian Fantasy, the new theatrical production co-created by the acclaimed theater director James Glossman and the Quartet's violinist, Philip Setzer. The music/theater hybrid, co-commissioned by the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, Princeton University and Tanglewood Music Festival, has been presented at the Ravinia Music Festival, Wolf Trap, and in Seoul, South Korea. In spring 2019, the quartet will reprise this work at Stony Brook University and the Orange County Performing Arts Center. In a bold intersection of chamber music and theater starring David Strathairn/Len Cariou andJay O. Sanders/Sean Astin with the Emerson String Quartet, the audiences witness the trials of Dmitri Shostakovich's 40-year obsessive quest to create an opera based on Anton Chekhov's mystical tale: The Black Monk.
The Emerson's extensive recordings range from Bach to Harbison, including the complete string quartets of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Bartok, Webern and Shostakovich, as well as multi-CD sets of the major works of Haydn, Mozart, Schubert and Dvorak. The ensemble has also recorded music by Tchaikovsky, Smetana, Debussy, Ravel, Barber and Ives. In April 2017, the Emerson released its latest album, Chaconnes and Fantasias: Music of Britten and Purcell, the first CD issue on the new label, Decca Gold. The Quartet has commissioned and performed new works from composers such as Thomas Adés, Kaija Saariaho,Wolfgang Rihm, Mark-Anthony Turnage, and Edgar Meyer.
Formed in 1976 and based in New York City, the Emerson was one of the first quartets whose violinists alternated in the first chair position. The quartet, which took its name from the American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, balances busy performing careers with a commitment to teaching and serves as Quartet-in-Residence at Stony Brook University. In 2013, cellist Paul Watkins, a distinguished soloist, award-wining conductor, and devoted chamber musician, joined the original members of the Emerson Quartet. The reconfigured group has been praised by critics and fans alike around the world. In spring 2016, full-time Stony Brook faculty members Philip Setzer and Lawrence Dutton received the honor of Distinguished Professor, and part-time faculty members Eugene Drucker and Paul Watkins were awarded the title of Honorary Distinguished Professor. The Emerson had previously received honorary doctorates from Middlebury College, the College of Wooster, Bard College and the University of Hartford. In January 2015, the Quartet received the Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award, Chamber Music America's highest honor, in recognition of its significant and lasting contribution to the chamber music field.
The Emerson Quartet enthusiastically endorses Thomastik strings.
"The Emerson performances represented an extraordinary fusion of experience and authority with audacity and freshness."
- The Boston Globe
"... with musicians like this there must be some hope for humanity." - The Times (London)
One of the most beloved and celebrated singers of our time, soprano Renée Fleming captivates audiences with her sumptuous voice, consummate artistry, and compelling stage presence. At a White House ceremony in 2013, President Obama awarded her the National Medal of Arts, America's highest honor for an individual artist. Known as "the people's diva" and winner of the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Solo, she continues to grace the world's greatest opera stages and concert halls, now extending her reach to include other musical forms and media. In recent years, Renée has hosted a wide variety of television and radio broadcasts, including the Metropolitan Opera's Live in HD series for movie theaters and television, and Live From Lincoln Center on PBS. She brought her voice to a vast new audience in 2014, as the first classical artist to sing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl.
As a musical statesman, Renée has been sought after on numerous distinguished occasions, from the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony to performances in Beijing during the 2008 Olympic Games. In 2014, she sang in the televised concert at the Brandenburg Gate to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 2012, in an historic first, she sang on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in the Diamond Jubilee Concert for HM Queen Elizabeth II. In January 2009, Renée was featured in the televised We Are One: The Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial concert for President Obama. She has also performed for the United States Supreme Court and, in November 2009, celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Czech Republic's "Velvet Revolution" at the invitation of Václav Havel. A ground-breaking distinction came in 2008 when Renée became the first woman in the 125-year history of the Metropolitan Opera to solo headline an opening night gala.
In the 2016-17 season, Renée brings her acclaimed portrayal of the Marschallin in Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier to the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and the Metropolitan Opera, in a new production by director Robert Carsen. Her 2017 recital and concert schedule spans the globe, including Budapest, Vienna, Amsterdam, Moscow, Brussels, Paris, London, Madrid, Helsinki, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Seoul, Houston, Chicago, and New York.
A four-time Grammy winner, Renée won the 2013 Best Classical Vocal Solo Grammy Award for Poèmes (Decca, 2012), a collection of 20th-Century French music, including works composed especially for her by Henri Dutilleux. Her most recent album Distant Light was recorded with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and released in January by Decca. It features Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915, The Strand Settings, composed for Renée by Anders Hillborg, as well as songs by Björk in new orchestral arrangements. In 2015, she was featured with Yo-Yo Ma on the Billy Childs album, Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro, their track "New York Tendaberry" winning the Grammy for Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals. Her first-ever holiday album, Christmas in New York, was released in 2014, and was the inspiration for a special on PBS. In June 2010, Decca and Mercury records released the CD Dark Hope, which features Renée covering songs by indie-rock and pop artists. Her recent opera dvds include Strauss's Arabella and Ariadne auf Naxos, and Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia. Other recent DVD releases include Handel's Rodelinda, Massenet's Thaïs and Verdi's Otello, all three in the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD series, and Verdi's Traviata, filmed at London's Royal Opera House. Ms. Fleming's 2010 DVD Renée Fleming & Dmitri Hvorostovsky: A Musical Odyssey in St. Petersburg follows Renée and baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky to Russia, where they explore and perform in some of St. Petersburg's most historic locations. In recent years, this fourteen-time Grammy nominated artist has recorded everything from Strauss's complete Daphne to the jazz album Haunted Heart to the movie soundtrack of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. She recorded Alexandre Desplat's theme song, "Still Dream" for the soundtrack of the Dreamworks Animation feature, Rise of the Guardians. Her recording honors range from the 2009 Echo Award for Strauss's Four Last Songs to the Prix Maria Callas Orphée d'Or by the Académie du Disque Lyric for TDK's DVD production of Capriccio. In February, 2012, Renée received the Victoire d'Honneur, the highest award conveyed by the French Victoires de la Musique.
In 2013, Renée joined with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to present American Voices, a concert and 3-day festival celebrating the best American singing in all genres. The festival was the subject of a Great Performances documentary on PBS in January of 2015. In January 2017, Renée spearheaded a similar cross-genre celebration of singing and community, Chicago Voices, at Lyric Opera of Chicago, with a gala concert telecast on public television. In May 2016, she sang in the National Memorial Day Concert with the National Symphony Orchestra, telecast from the lawn of the U.S. Capitol on PBS.
Renée Fleming's artistry has been an inspiration to many other prominent artists, such as Chuck Close and Robert Wilson, whose portraits of her were included in the Metropolitan Opera's 2007 fundraising auction. Two portraits of Ms. Fleming were also created by Francesco Clemente, who revealed one in Salzburg in spring 2007, with the Metropolitan Opera displaying the other in 2008. Photographic portraits include works by Brigitte Lacombe and Irving Penn, among others. In June of this year, the Annie Leibowitz portrait of Renée was added to the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. Nelson Shank's portrait of Renée in the title role of Rusalka is on display in the portrait gallery of the Metropolitan Opera.
Renée Fleming is a champion of new music and has performed works by a wide range of contemporary composers, including recent compositions by Anders Hillborg, Henri Dutilleux, Brad Mehldau, André Previn, and Wayne Shorter. Among her numerous awards are Germany's Cross of the Order of Merit (2015); the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal (2011); Sweden's Polar Prize (2008); the Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur from the French government (2005); Honorary Membership in the Royal Academy of Music (2003); and honorary doctorates from Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University (2015), Carnegie Mellon University (2012), the Eastman School of Music (2011) and The Juilliard School (2003), where she was also commencement speaker.
An advocate for literacy, Renée Fleming has been featured in promotional campaigns for the Association of American Publishers (Get Caught Reading), and the Magazine Publishers of America's READ poster campaign for the American Library Association. She was honored by The New York Public Library as a "Library Lion." Her book, The Inner Voice, was published by Viking Penguin in 2004, and released in paperback by Penguin the following year. An intimate account of her career and creative process, the book is also published in France by Fayard Editions, in the United Kingdom by Virgin Books, by Henschel Verlag in Germany, Shunjusha in Japan, and by Fantom Press in Russia.
In addition to her work on stage and in recordings, Renée Fleming has represented Rolex timepieces in print advertising since 2001. In 2008, she launched La Voce by Renée Fleming, a fragrance designed for her, with the proceeds benefiting the Metropolitan Opera. Master Chef Daniel Boulud created the dessert "La Diva Renée" (1999) in her honor, and she inspired the "Renée Fleming Iris" (2004), which has been replicated in porcelain by Boehm. Having been added to Mr. Blackwell's best dressed list, her concert gowns have been designed by Reem Acra, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano for Dior, Douglas Hannant, Christian Lacroix, Oscar de la Renta, Angel Sanchez and Vivienne Westwood. In June of 2014, the Smithsonian added the gown designed by Vera Wang for Renée's Super Bowl anthem performance to the permanent collection of the Museum of American History. In addition to serving as the face of opera for two public transit campaigns in New York and London, Renée has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman (famously singing the Top Ten List), The Martha Stewart Show, Spectacle: Elvis Costello with…, The View and Prairie Home Companion as "Renata Flambé," among numerous other media outlets.
In 2016, Renée was appointed Artistic Advisor-at-Large for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Hall Corporation, the Board of Sing for Hope, the Board of Trustees of Asia Society, and the Artistic Advisory Board of the Polyphony Foundation, which works to bridge the divide between Arab and Jewish communities in Israel by creating a common ground where young people come together around classical music. She is a creative advisor to AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio. In 2010, she was named the first-ever Creative Consultant at Lyric Opera of Chicago, where she is also a member of the Board and a Vice President. At Lyric Opera of Chicago, she curated the creation of a world-premiere opera based on the best-seller Bel Canto for Lyric Opera's 2015-2016 season. A performance of the production was telecast on PBS Great Performances in January.
Soprano Renée Fleming and the Emerson String Quartet join forces for a new recording of Berg's intricately complex Lyric Suiteand Egon Wellesz's highly expressive setting of Sonnets by Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, released on Decca on September 11, 2015. It is the first collaboration on record of America's reigning star soprano and its premier string quartet. Fleming and the Emerson String Quartet join together for a special performance of this repertoire at SubCulture in New York City on September 16, 2015 at 7:30pm in celebration of the album release.
This release unites soprano Renée Fleming and the Emerson String Quartet for the first time. They embark on a journey to Vienna in the 1920s and ‘30s through music imbued with late romanticism and burgeoning modernism. The record features Alban Berg's intricate Lyric Suite and Egon Wellesz's Sonnets by Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, sung in German translations by Rainer Maria Rilke.
The Berg: Lyric Suite: V, Presto delirando (4:40); VI, Largo desolato (5:58) Music of Berg & Wellesz on Decca is a WFMT: Chicago - New Release Of the Week
Renée Fleming, when she sings, usually seems to be a football field away from her audiences at the Metropolitan Opera or Carnegie Hall. So it was a charming revelation to hear her so close up on Wednesday at SubCulture, the cozy, struggling basement space in the East Village. The occasion was the release last week of her new album with the Emerson String Quartet, focusing on music of Weimar-era Vienna, a milieu that has clearly intrigued Ms. Fleming. (The finale of her Carnegie Hall residency two years ago was "Vienna: Window to Modernity.")
Ms. Fleming delivered - with an intimate clarity devoid of the syrupy scooping in which she's sometimes indulged. Her voice lightly, icily floated, like the fog from liquid nitrogen, as she began the second stanza, with its haunting description of a sun without warmth. The Emerson quartet played with incisive tanginess, and Ms. Fleming, persuasively inhabiting a cabaret-size space, made her 10 minutes of singing count. READ THE FULL New York Times REVIEW
Having grown used to seeing her tread the boards at the Met or headline gala events with major orchestras, it was a little odd to see Renée Fleming Wednesday night at SubCulture, the hip cabaret tucked away in a Bleecker Street basement. In fact she sang for only about ten minutes of an event that featured just about a half-hour of music, all told.
To be fair, violinist Eugene Drucker of the Emerson String Quartet, Fleming's collaborators for the evening, noted at the start that this was a promotional event for a new CD, and apparently it was a successful one-the 7:30 performance sold out in a flash, and a 9:30 set, added in response to the demand, was near capacity, as well.
The Decca CD in question is a new album featuring these musicians in works for soprano and string quartet. The largest work on the disc that calls for all five musicians is Egon Wellesz's set of five Sonnets for Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
The focus, though, was Alban Berg's Lyric Suite, a piece with a particularly fascinating history. Written in six movements, the piece was thought to be for string quartet alone until the 1970s, when a hidden vocal line in the final movement was discovered; legal challenges have made the performance and recording of the version with soprano impossible until even more recently.
READ THE FULL New York Classical Review