André Emelianoff
1942 – 2020

Wonderful personal and musical warmth, humor, constant searching for uplifting musical understanding—these are some of the many traits of André’s that I have valued hugely and feel supremely fortunate to have interacted with, during his 35-year span as cellist with the Da Capo Chamber Players. He and I rehearsed Elliott Carter’s duo, Enchanted Preludes, so deeply that there were spots where I could play my best only in the context of hearing what his part was saying, either with or right before mine.  


In group rehearsals he would often have insights that would cut through a web of obscure attempts to understand the musical intent of the composer. And his “no-fault” rehearsal approach was superb. An early memory: the group needed to tune a spot, and to my amazement he simply said “I can’t find the pitch”. It was such a low-keyed way to focus our attention, without asserting that any one person was either on or off—a small example of a really helpful rehearsal vibe!


André’s inner commitment to making music transcended the emphasis on precision and technical mastery—but he always respected their importance. Once, in a rehearsal years ago, a guest (a singer perhaps—can’t remember who) had made the rest of us quite uptight: some of the rhythms or articulations we wanted to improve were, according to the guest, “small potatoes” and he didn’t want to bother with them. But when André arrived a bit later, and the guest mentioned this to him, André fixed the whole thing by announcing in no uncertain terms and with complete good humor, “That’s me—I’m a ‘small potatoes’ man!”  


Da Capo’s identity has of course always been tied to our work with today’s composers, and André’s input in that area was significant and seminal. Every composer who wrote for us (more than 100 during that time) knew that André’s exciting musical insight would be contributing to the premiere and subsequent performances of the piece. André also led the way to wonderful interactions with George Perle, Chinary Ung, Alla Borzova, and David Sanford (to mention just a few!)  Most recently, Joan Tower’s Looking Back (2018), commissioned by
Da Capo for her 80th year (a major new work for a major occasion), was dedicated to André.


André Emelianoff’s extraordinary musical thinking and the love we feel for him will live on in Da Capo, in myself, and in the many students and colleagues he has touched.  

  — Patricia Spencer









1 – Da Capo in 2008: Patricia Spencer, flute; Meighan Stoops, clarinet; Blair McMillan, piano; Curtis Macomber, violin; André Emelianoff, celloPhoto © Peter Schaaf

2 – André Emelianoff and Joan Tower, accepting applause after performance at the Century Club. 

3 – Da Capo Chamber Players performing at Gracie Mansion in the late 1970's.  L to R:  Joel Lester, Patricia Spencer, Joan Tower, Laura Flax, André Emelianoff.  


4 – André Emelianoff, Patricia Spencer, Laura Flax (seated), Joel Lester, Joan Tower. 


The Da Capo Chamber Players has been hailed by The New Yorker as a "distinguished the center of the New York new-music scene for forty-five years" (May 2016). Winner of the Naumburg Chamber Music Award early in its trajectory (1973), the ensemble is about to enter its 50th season. It is a five-member "Pierrot" ensemble (flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano). The internationally acclaimed group has worked closely with today's most respected composers, building a heritage of present-day American chamber music drawn from an enormous spectrum of styles.


Known for Its unique and dedicated attention to every work, its dynamic performances are consistent with the highest musical standards found in performances of traditional repertoire. A further very important goal is to bring exciting American music to other destinations around the world, and to present musics of global cultures for American audiences.


The Da Capo Chamber Players' annual New York series has been praised for "superb" and "gripping" performances. Ground-breaking programs have included premieres by Elliott Carter, George Perle, Louis Karchin (AMERICAN VISIONS, setting of poems by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, with the poet as guest reader), Joan Tower, Shulamit Ran, Chinary Ung, and countless others. The five ensemble members bring years of creative insight, involvement and artistic vision to our work and performances of today's repertoire, including over 150 works written especially for the group. Adventuresome programs with electronic sounds, works by young composers, collaborations with choreographers—all have sparked the imagination of listeners. Our Merkin Concert Hall celebration of the centenary of Schoenberg's PIERROT LUNAIRE (with Lucy Shelton) received a standing ovation, just as it did again at New Music New College in Sarasota, FL, in 2016.

In 2010, NPR named the ensemble's recording, Chamber Music of Chinary Ung (Bridge Records), as one of the five Best Contemporary Classical CDs of the Year.


Educational outreach has always been and continues to be a vital part of our work. The ensemble shares its love and commitment to this important repertoire with next generation artists through its ongoing residency at Bard College and touring engagements that feature masterclasses, readings and performances. Further—as young composers continue to develop, after graduation, Da Capo continues to program them, helping them with career-building.

Current members of Da Capo:  Patricia Spencer, flute; Marianne Gythfeldt, clarinet; Steven Beck, piano; Curtis Macomber, violin;  Chris Gross, cello. Photo © Beowulf Sheehan


1976 – 1985 members of Da Capo:  Joel Lester, violin; Patricia Spencer, flute; André Emelianoff, cello;  Joan Tower, piano; Laura Flax, clarinet