The Emerson Europe tour started on May 27 with three consecutive concerts, different programs, in the Schwetzingen Festspiele.
The concerts are held in the charming but brutally dry acoustics of the Schwetzingen palace’s Rokokotheater, built in 1752, and host to musicians ever since including Mozart who played there seven times.
The Schwetzingen palace, originally built as a summer home, has formal gardens unequalled in Europe.
The strains of performing three different programs in a row took their toll on the quartet during the second concert when I inadvertently took a repeat in a Haydn minuet four bars early and, for the first time in thirty years, the Emerson Quartet ground to a horrified halt as my colleagues tried unsuccessfully to figure out how to pull it together. Beginning again, we gave the radio a completely successful movement for broadcast, but requested for our amusement a recording of the outtake, somberly delivered to us by the astounded engineer who labeled it “The Fault”. The recording, while I have not yet been able to stomach listening closely to it, has already provided opportunity for endless jokes amongst us and tearfully hysterical listening sessions from my colleagues. The moment will undoubtedly find a place someday in the Emerson Hall of Fame, among a handful of other underwhelming moments from an overwhelming career.
Incidentally, the program book at Schwetzingen contained a picture, dated 1800, of a string quartet with three members standing. So we are far from the first, and there is certainly a historical precedent.
For want of an elevator and air conditioning, I elected not to stay in the quaint hotel near the palace, but at a hotel in nearby Heidelberg, spectacularly beautiful, and very same hotel in which we all stayed during the week of recording the Schubert Cello Quintet with Rostropovich. Being, needless to say, brought back many memories of one of the most intensely wonderful experiences of my life.