Lawrence Dutton, violist of the Emerson String Quartet, had rotator cuff surgery this summer, so the quartet has revised its fall concert programs to perform with various pianists who have been kind enough to step up on short notice.

They were here the other night with Menahem Pressler for a fantastic program in Brendel Hall – Mozart’s Eb Major Divertimento and Brahms’s G Minor Piano Quartet. The Mozart is a divertimento in name and form only – it’s really more of a profound, unaccompanied triple concerto. The piano quartet is one of Brahms’s most instantly loveable works from first bar to last.

Cellist David Finckel landed in the airport at about a quarter to eleven in the morning, raced off in a rental car to a 12:00 rehearsal, spent the afternoon attending to various obligations, grabbed a 10-minute nap and walked out on stage to a packed house at 7:30 p.m. His performance, as always, was exquisite: every note, every phrase was juiced with implications and connections. We met briefly afterwards, talking about the concert, our kids, and the upcoming season at Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, which he runs with his wife Wu Han, and which opens tonight.

I’ve known David for over thirty years, since the summers I spent at the Vermont music camp run by his father, Edwin Finckel, who was my first composition teacher. It’s always a pleasure to see him and to hear him perform, but I was also sorry to see how exhausted he was. After the concert, he was ready to collapse, which was a good thing, since he had a 7:00 a.m. flight the next morning.

Music is a sublime art form, but it can be a hellish profession.

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