This was Finckel's final Staller performance as a member of the Emerson String Quartet. (Kenneth Ho)
This was Finckel’s final Staller performance as a member of the Emerson String Quartet. (Kenneth Ho)

Stony Brook’s own Emerson String Quartet has been labeled “America’s greatest quartet” by Time magazine. Its members have been recognized for their ability to perform at a high level, their technical mastery and for their ability to exhibit a great deal of creativity.

The New York-based string quartet has been in residence at Stony Brook University since 2002. Established in 1976, the group’s namesake was legendary American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Since their inception, the Emerson String Quartet has released more than 30 albums and won nine Grammy Awards. Just recently, the quartet celebrated its 30th Anniversary with a nine-concert “Perspectives” series in Carnegie Hall.

The group’s current members consist of violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer. These two violinists were students of the late-great Oscar Shumsky. Viola player Lawrence Dutton and cello player David Finckel round out the group. In addition to teaching at several schools and workshops, the group holds a premier workshop in Stony Brook for serious pre-professional string quartets that has been active since 2004.

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“It’s very exciting to have classes and then to be able to get to see successful musicians perform for us,” said David Haray, a sophomore clarinet major. “It’s something special that the music department supplies us with.”

The quartet has also traveled the world and has been involved in more than 80 worldwide performances, including Paris, Spain and Austria, just to name a few. As for their American campaign, the Emerson String Quartet has performed in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland.

On April 17, the group performed for approximately 300 fans for what will be Finckel’s last time in Stony Brook’s Staller Center. Although this was his final concert here, he will remain with the quartet for seven more concerts and will perform with his fellow members at the Smithsonian in May. After his cello playing days are over, Finckel will continue his role on the faculty as an artist-in-residence for viola and chamber music.

Finckel was honored as one of Musical America’s 2012 Musicians of the Year. He was also dubbed as a “world class soloist” by the “Denver Post” and “one of the top 10, if not top five, cellist in world today” by “Nordwest Zeitung.” As one of the most sought after musicians in the world, Finckel appears in over 100 concerts each season. He has also gained acclaim for teaching at Carnegie Hall and the Jerusalem Music Center. The cello player has also been instrumental in establishing teaching residencies under The Chamber Music Society of the Lincoln Center in Korea and Taiwan.

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“I’ve been coming to watch them play for a while now,” Stony Brook senior and business major Charles Greenaway said. “It’s just sad to see Finckel go because no one will be able to fill his shoes.”

After their performance, the quartet exited the stage only to return once again for an encore.

“Finckel is very charming on stage and has great chemistry with the other performers, but it is really upsetting to see him leave,” said Haray.

The quartet has announced that Paul Watkins, a seasoned cellist, conductor and chamber musician, will officially replace Finckel starting in the 2013-2014 concert season. Watkins, who is almost two decades younger than the rest of the group, offers the quartet the opportunity to strengthen its music values.

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