Trio to present pieces from classical canon at Penn State

From left: Philip Setzer, Wu Han and David Finckel will perform a program of Ludwig van Beethoven piano trios on Feb. 23 at Penn State.
From left: Philip Setzer, Wu Han and David Finckel will perform a program of Ludwig van Beethoven piano trios on Feb. 23 at Penn State. Photo provided

As frequent collaborators, pianist Wu Han, violinist Philip Setzer and cellist David Finckel share a love of Ludwig van Beethoven piano trios that they will display on Feb. 23 at Schwab Auditorium.

The concert is the first in a two-season offering by the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State of Beethoven piano trios.

Han began playing concerts at the age of 12 and hasn’t stopped since. She has performed on the world’s leading stages, including at Carnegie and Wigmore halls.

“It’s been a great, great life, and it’s just fantastic to be a musician,” she said. “It’s a career or profession that I would highly recommend if you are passionate about this art form.”

In the 1980s, Han moved to the United States to continue her studies, where she met and later married Finckel. In 1997, the couple formed ArtistLed, the classical music genre’s first musician-directed internet-based recording company. The two also co-founded Music@Menlo, an annual Silicon Valley-area chamber festival and workshop program.

Finckel, former Emerson String Quartet cellist, is co-artistic director of The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Chamber Music Today and Korea’s Mendelssohn Fellowship. He teaches cello at The Juilliard School and music at Stony Brook University. He has led master classes and established training workshops for outstanding young musicians throughout the world.

Setzer is a founding and current member of Emerson String Quartet and performs often as part of a trio with Han and Finckel. He is on the faculty at Stony Brook, presents master classes worldwide and teaches at Heifetz Institute at Mary Baldwin University.

Finckel and Setzer performed together in the Emerson String Quartet for 34 years. Before the Emerson Quartet took off, they also performed in a piano trio together with different musicians.

“When we were younger we always talked about how we wanted to play in a piano trio together, because it’s such an incredible art form and an incredible repertoire — and for a musician, repertoire is so important,” Han said. “Then the Emerson Quartet took off.”

About six years ago, the three musicians were having dinner together and talking about Schubert piano trios. They had wanted to do the trio together, but they never had a chance. But Finckel decided to release Han’s recordings with or without a trio and asked her who she would like to play with.

“I said it must be Phil — he is one of the greatest violinists, and he also has an incredible sense of style and beauty in his playing,” Han said. “Of course, David had known Phil for such a long time, so the trio started to record.”

To this day, the trio still doesn’t have a name. But they are all very busy with their individual careers, as Han and Finckel play a lot of recitals together, among other projects.

“The phone just hasn’t stopped ringing, so we just keep playing the trio,” Han said. “We are very happy that the trio is embarking on another big project, which is the complete Beethoven trios project, which we will be coming to Penn State to play in two seasons. That’s another major project for the piano trio.”


  • What: Wu Han, Philip Setzer and David Finckel
  • When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23
  • Where: Schwab Auditorium, University Park
  • Info: www.cpa.psu.edu