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The Emerson String Quartet, a favourite with Vancouver chamber music fans, has won nine Grammys.
The Emerson String Quartet, a favourite with Vancouver chamber music fans, has won nine Grammys.

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The first time the Emerson String Quartet played Vancouver, the show almost didn’t go on.

It was 1979, and the young New York quartet was stuck in a snowstorm in Salt Lake City, then Denver, but managed to catch a late flight to Seattle. With the clock ticking, and not enough time for the group to make the drive, Friends of Chamber Music’s Eric Wilson landed a now-legendary Plan B.

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“I phoned around and found – and this sounds crazy these days – that I could get a private jet for $100 to go into Seattle and pick them up,” Mr. Wilson remembers with a laugh. “Then I rushed to the airport to get them, and they literally walked on stage in their jeans and delivered one hell of a concert.”

It was the start of a 30-year love affair between the quartet – which has since won nine Grammys and countless other international awards and accolades – and Vancouver chamber music fans, who turn out religiously for their varied and invigorating performances.

But this weekend’s concert, which includes music from Mozart to Dvorak to Berg, marks a special milestone: It will be the final Vancouver concert with long-time cellist David Finckel, also a professor and co-director at the Lincoln Centre, who is moving on to pursue other projects.

“They really are the No. 1 quartet in the U.S.A., and one of the top in the world. They have such wonderful energy and charisma, and they just draw you into the music,” Mr. Wilson says.

“And when you come out into the hall, there’s always buzz.”

The Emerson String Quartet is at the Vancouver Playhouse Sunday

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