Beginning with four consecutive concerts in Spain, during which the quartet was joined by pianist Emanuel Ax for the quintet by Dvorak, the Emerson Quartet fall Europe tour was rounded out by performances in Turin, Naples and Rome, with a stop in London for two concerts at Wigmore Hall. In addition to the quintet repertoire, the Emerson performed quartets by Janacek, Beethoven, Schubert and Haydn.
in David’s words…
Our arrival in Valencia was greeted with an inspired performance the same night of Haydn’s oratorio “The Seasons” by the Monteverdi Choir and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, led by their founder and director, John Eliot Gardiner. At dinner after the concert we were joined by John Eliot, his wife Isabella, and CMS Two clarinetist and Valencia native Jose Franch-Ballester and friend Christina.
Our program for the tour consisted of the ESQ appearing first in a string quartet – either our early Schubert Eb or the Beethoven Op. 74 “Harp”, then Manny in a Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op. 2 #3, followed by the Dvorak Quintet and an encore of the scherzo from the Schumann Quintet. Following the first performance in Bilbao, we boarded flights for Madrid and then on to Oviedo in the north for the second concert that night.
Manny was the most supportive and helpful touring companion one could imagine. He not only happily put up with quartet travel hardships, like sitting in the back of a car underneath my cello, but also insisted on dragging my suitcase for me – when I couldn’t get to it before he grabbed it.
The next night after Valencia we were in the northern coast of Oviedo, in the Asturias region, to perform in the city center’s Principe Felipe Auditorio. We were delightedly surprised at lunch by the appearance of our great friend, the distinguished Mexican musician Juan Luis Prieto, who was accompanying his brother Carlos on a book promotion tour. Carlos is the owner of one of the most famous cellos of all time, the Piatti Strad, and his book about the history of the cello, Adventures of a Cello, is an amazing read.
The drive of several hours east to Bilbao, the largest city of the Basque region, provided a nice opportunity to sample the delicious food of the Spanish highway rest stops – each has the feel of a family-run restaurant.
The concert in Bilbao was played for the historic Sociedad Filarmónica, an organization which was founded in 1896 and has hosted a comprehensive list of the world’s most distinguished musicians, as the historic backstage gallery attests. The photos include many musicians in their youngest performing years, including Rostropovich.
After the concert Manny was joined at dinner by the distinguished Spanish pianist Joaquín Achúcarro, a musician who recently celebrated his 60th anniversary on the concert stage. Having performed in 59 countries with 206 orchestras (see his website, achucarro.com), he and Manny had a lot of notes to compare.
The city of Pamplona, in the region slightly to the south known as the Navarre, and home of the famous bull runs every July in the San Fermín festival, was the final stop on the Emerson-Ax portion of our tour. A sculpture near the concert hall captured the craziness of the event.
We bid Manny a fond farewell on the street, after a grand meal that lasted late into the night. Manny journeyed by car the next day to a recital in the Spanish city of Valladolid, where we have played many times, and a return to Valencia for another solo recital.
Our next stop, in London, brought us to one of our favorite venues – Wigmore Hall – for two concerts: one on the Monday afternoon BBC3 live (the Haydn 7 Last Words) and a full recital the following evening.
During the visit, I found time to visit our good friend Simon McBurney, actor and theater director, whose company, Complicite, partnered with the Emerson Quartet in The Noise of Time.
The following day took us to our favorite Italian city of Torino, where we appeared again for our friend Giorgio Pugliaro and his organization Unione Musicale. The venue is the magnificent hall of the Conservatorio G. Verdi, which was shrouded in a mysterious Italian fog when we emerged late (concerts regularly begin at 9pm in Italy), and headed for an exquisite dinner.
Flying to Naples the next day, we were greeted by a brilliant sun, which shone on our mountaintop venue for the evening, the Castel Sant’Elmo, completed in 1343. After the concert, and harrowing cab rides through the Quartiere Spagnolo, we were graciously invited for a sumptuous dinner at the home of Associazione Alessandro Scarlatti president Lucio Sicca. The Association is celebrating its 90th anniversary this season, and has hosted many of the last century’s most famous musicians.
The following day, a return visit to the castle offered a stunning view of the city and Mt. Vesuvius, at an all-too-close distance.
The final stop on our tour was Rome, where we performed for the first time on the series at the University’s Auditorio L’Aula Magna, decorated with a stunning mural, the artist or significance of which I was not able to learn.
At the final dinner of the tour we joined by the quartet’s longtime friend Harold Slapin, who made the journey from New Jersey to visit the quartet in Italy and to spend a couple of extra days sightseeing with me as tour guide.