The String Quartet was initiated by Joseph Haydn. His pieces were written for, and performed by, the educated amateur, often an aristocrat and his friends and family. It was parlor music in the best sense of that phrase.
Almost a month has passed since I played my final concert as cellist of the Emerson String Quartet after a run of 34 years. After thousands of concerts, incalculable hours of rehearsals, unforgettable meals, joke-telling and schlepping; one moment I was in, and the next I was out.
I've never before said a final goodbye to a piece of music, but just before Christmas I packed up two enormous suitcases of quartet music and took it to my basement storage bin. It was a strange sensation, somewhat ghoulish, like burying one's self alive.
They took it seriously and played it frothily, the way young virtuosos who are also good friends do, and when they occasionally stumbled, as Mozart intended, they smiled and won the audience's heart, also as Mozart intended.
I was expecting something unpredictable early in 2007, when I made my way to Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn to watch the iconoclastic classical musicians and composers known as the International Street Cannibals mix it up with some young boxers.