Emerson Quartet retiring in summer 2023

The Emerson String Quartet has announced its retirement, giving its last performances in summer 2023.

The ensemble, long rated one of the leading US quartets, was formed in 1976 at the Juilliard School in New York, and has gone through several personnel changes over the years. Originally composed of violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, violist Guillermo Figueroa Jr. and cellist Eric Wilson, the group’s current members are Drucker, Setzer, violist Lawrence Dutton and cellist Paul Watkins.

That foursome, along with cellist David Finckel, who played in the group from 1979 to 2013, plan to continue coaching young musicians through the Emerson String Quartet Institute at New York’s Stony Brook University.

“Each city on our itineraries” – Richmond has been a regular stop – “has had its own unique associations for us, giving atmosphere, texture and the all-important personal dimension to our recollections of the passing seasons,” Drucker said in a statement accompanying the retirement announcement.

The Emerson is the second major string quartet to call it quits in recent months. Germany’s Artemis Quartet lost several members and indefinitely suspended performing in May.

(Correction: Philip Setzer’s name was misspelled in the initial post.)

Michael Morgan (1957-2021)

Michael Morgan, longtime conductor of the Oakland Symphony and other ensembles in California, has died at 63.

Morgan, who in 1998 was a candidate to succeed George Manahan as music director of the Richmond Symphony (the post ultimately went to Mark Russell Smith), was born in Washington but spent most of his career conducting and teaching in the San Francisco Bay area.

He had led the Oakland Symphony for nearly 30 years, turning the ensemble into one “that is being run from the education department outward,” he said. “We are developing the orchestra as an educational resource that gives concerts.”

An obituary by Tim Page for The Washington Post:


Kennedy Center: Vax and mask

Washington’s Kennedy Center has joined most of the DC area’s other venues in requiring vaccinations and masks for patrons.

Effective Sept. 1, “[p]roof of full vaccination against COVID-19 is required to attend all indoor performances and events,” the center announced on its website, http://kennedy-center.org

Vaccination exemptions apply to children younger than 12, who are not yet eligible for the shot, and those with medical conditions or “a closely held religious belief.”

“Masks are required at all times for all patrons and visitors regardless of vaccination status in all indoor spaces,” the center announced.

Bach: a love-hate triangle

Philip Kennicott, a onetime music critic who’s now The Washington Post’s art and architecture critic, loves playing J.S. Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” on his piano. He also loves his dog, a border collie-Newfoundland mixed breed named Nathan; but Nathan howls pitiably and flees the room whenever he hears the “Goldbergs.” Kennicott consults the experts, and has to settle for speculative answers:


Among the generations of cats who’ve allowed me to share their homes, only one responded in any way to music: He was attracted to the buzzy noises of certain instruments – harpsichords, bassoons, bagpipes. Whenever he heard them, he would jump up on a loudspeaker to savor the vibrations and get a virtual tummy rub.

A silver anniversary in Roanoke

David Stewart Wiley celebrates his 25th anniversary with the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra in the orchestra’s coming season of 14 classical and pops programs. The Roanoke Times’ Mike Allen reports on Wiley’s ambition to “reconnect” the RSO and its audience:


Rediscovering Nadia Boulanger

Bard College in New York is mounting a two-week festival that seeks to reintroduce a 20th-century musical figure described by one of her pupils, composer Virgil Thomson, as “a one‐woman graduate school so powerful and so permeating that legend credits every U.S. town with two things: a five‐and‐dime and a Boulanger pupil.”

Nadia Boulanger died in 1979, and most of her best-known students – Thomson, Aaron Copland, Roy Harris, Walter Piston, Elliott Carter, Marc Blitzstein, Jean Françaix, Igor Markevitch, Grażyna Bacewicz, Dinu Lipatti, Yehudi Menuhin, Astor Piazzolla – also have passed from the scene. A few are still with us: Philip Glass, Quincy Jones, Daniel Barenboim, John Eliot Gardiner.

Boulanger’s stature as a teacher overshadowed her work as a musicologist, conductor and composer. She was the first woman to conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra and BBC Symphony Orchestra, and led the premiere of Stravinsky’s “Dumbarton Oaks” Concerto. She was one of the most prominent advocates for the modern revival of early music, making pioneering recordings of the works of Claudio Monteverdi in the 1930s.

She might have been one of the first prominent female composers had she not discounted her own work and given up composition in favor of promoting the music of her short-lived younger sister, Lili.

The Bard festival, “Nadia Boulanger and Her World,” beginning Aug. 6, “invites a reconsideration of her life and legacy,” with her music performed alongside works by her sister as well as her contemporaries and students, William Robin writes in The New York Times:

August calendar

The August Musicales series, 7 p.m. Wednesdays at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, 1627 Monument Ave.: Organist Theodore Davis, playing his adaptation of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf;” Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Impromptu, Op. 78, No. 1; Florence Price’s Suite No. 1; and the Lied from Louis Vierne’s “24 Pieces en style libre,” Aug. 4. . . . The Atlantic Chamber Ensemble, playing Coleridge-Taylor’s “Louisiana Blues Strut: Cakewalk,” Oscar Navarro’s “Creation,” Edoward Destenay’s Tarantelle, Reena Esmail’s “Tasveer,” Ilja Hurnik’s Sonata da camera, Astor Piazzolla’s “Fuga y Misterio,” and Saint-Saëns’ Caprice, Op. 79, Aug. 11. . . . Pianist Dmitri Shteinberg, playing J.S. Bach’s “Italian Concerto;” Mozart’s Sonata in B flat major, K. 570; Mendelssohn’s “Variations seriéuses,” Op. 54; and Debussy’s “La Cathedrale engloutie,” “Poissons d’or,” “La Danse de Puck” and “Feux d’artifice,” Aug. 18. Donations requested. Details: (804) 359-2463, ext. 204; http://gcpcrva.org

A Violins of Hope ensemble, joined by Israeli violin maker Avshi Weinstein, will present chamber works by Mendelssohn and two Jewish composers whose music was suppressed by the Nazis in the 1930s and ’40s, Viktor Ullmann and Hans Krása, at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 5 at the Virginia Holocaust Museum, 2000 E. Cary St. Tickets: $6. Details: (804) 257-5400; http://violinsofhoperva.com/programs-events/

Pianist Lisa Niemeier will play Haydn’s Andante and Variations in F minor (“Un piccolo divertimento”), Poulenc’s “Mélancolie,” Chopin’s Étude in C minor, Op. 25, No. 12, and Liszt’s transcription of Schumann’s “Widmung” (“Liebeslied”) at 7 p.m. Aug. 16 at River Road Church, Baptist, River and Ridge roads. Admission is free; reservations and masks required. Details: (804) 288-1131; http://rrcb.org

Virginia Beach’s Neptune Festival presents free concerts by Symphonicity on Aug. 12 and 26 and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra on Aug. 19, all at 7:30 p.m. at 31st Street Park on the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. Details: (757) 498-0215; http://neptunefestival.com

David Stewart Wiley conducts the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, joined by dancers from the Southwest Virginia Ballet, in a free “Symphony under the Stars” program at 7 p.m. Aug. 28 in Roanoke’s Elmwood Park, 706 S. Jefferson St. Details: (540) 343-9127; http://rso.com

At the Garth Newel Music Center, US 220 between Hot Springs and Warm Springs in Bath County: The center’s fellows and faculty, playing Mozart’s Piano Quartet in E flat major, K. 493; Webern’s Langsammer Satz (Slow Movement); Caroline Shaw’s “Entr’acte;” and Ravel’s Piano Trio in A minor, 3 p.m. Aug. 1. . . . The Fellowship Chamber Concert II, with Brahms’ Quartet in C minor, Op. 51, No. 1, and Dvořák’s Piano Trio in E minor, Op. 90 (“Dumky”), 3 p.m. Aug. 7 and 8. . . . The Garth Newel Piano Quartet, playing Saint-Saëns’ Piano Quartet in B flat major, Op. 41; and Jordan Kuspa’s “Collideoscope,” being introduced at Garth Newel this summer, 3 p.m. Aug. 14. . . . Violinist Teresa Ling, cellist Isaac Melamed and pianist Jeannette Fang, playing William Grant Still’s Suite for violin and piano and Anton Arensky’s Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 32, 3 p.m. Aug. 15 and 28. . . . Flutist Conor Nelson and pianist Jeannette Fang, playing Schubert’s “Trockne Blumen” Variations, Toru Takemitsu’s “Voice,” Martin Bresnick’s “Bird as Prophet” and Erwin Schulhoff’s Sonata for flute and piano, 3 p.m. Aug. 21 and 22. . . . Pianist Jeannette Fang, playing Chopin’s Etude in C minor, Op. 25, No. 12 (“Ocean”); Margaret Bonds’ “Troubled Water;” J.S. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in D minor, BWV 875, and Toccata in C minor, BWV 911; the intermezzi in A minor and A major from Brahms’ “Six Piano Pieces,” Op. 118; Caroline Shaw’s “Gustave le Gray;” and Scriabin’s Sonata No. 5, Op. 53, 3 p.m. Aug. 29. Tickets: $25 (concerts only), $50-$80 (concerts with food and drink), $10 (live online stream). Details: (540) 839-5018; http://garthnewel.org

At the Filene Center amphitheater of Wolf Trap, 1625 Trap Road in Fairfax County: Soprano Renée Fleming with the National Symphony Orchestra, Patrick Summers conducting, singing Ravel’s “Shéhérazade” and songs and arias by Flotow, Puccini, Leoncavallo and Lerner & Loewe, along with orchestral works by Mozart, Gershwin and Richard Rodgers, 8 p.m. Aug. 6. Tickets: $27-$102. . . . The National Symphony in live accompaniment of a screening of “Star Wars: a New Hope,” 8 p.m. Aug. 27. Tickets: $40-$77. Details: (703) 255-1868; http://wolftrap.org