One of the characteristics of the Emerson Quartet is that its players (the violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer and the violist Lawrence Dutton in addition, now, to Mr. Watkins) all have the ability and the instruments to produce a sweet and glossy sound — but do so sparingly. Instead, they establish a chromatic scale of timbres that range from dry and tart over clean and zesty all the way to lustrous and singing. Listening to them pass tiny rhythmic motifs around the group, I was struck by how evenly calibrated these timbres were.
Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: The “old” Emerson String Quartet never phoned one in. But this new group — Mr. Watkins alongside the violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, and the violist Lawrence Dutton — complemented their customary power, finesse and unanimity with a fresh, palpable vigor at Tully, and it was electrifying.
In 2002 the Quartet were the Music Directors of the Ojai Music Festival. They also played for the Oscar nominated short film, The Little Match Girl. They have also won the Avery Fisher Prize, and in 2010, were inducted into the Classical Music Hall of Fame, with a ceremony held in 2011. In January 2015, the Quartet received the Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award, the highest award in the classical chamber music world.
Volume I - Dvorák: Quartet No. 12 in F, Op. 96 "American;" Smetana: Quartet No. 1 in E "From My Life." (1990) Book of the Month Records
Volume II - Brahms: Quartet No. 1 in c, Op. 51; Schumann: Quartet in A, Op. 41, No. 3 (1990) Book of the Month Records
Volume III - Borodin: Quartet No. 2 in D; Tchaikovsky: Quartet No. 1 in D, Op.11 (1990) Book of the Month Records
Volume IV - Debussy: Quartet in g, Op. 10; Ravel: Quartet in F Major. (1990) Book of the Month Records