From the Emerson's choice of repertoire, two things are instantly apparent. First, there is the implied equivalency of Haydn and Tower; second, there is the stated centrality of Beethoven and Shostakovich. This is not to say that the Emerson's musicians regard a string quartet by the father of the string quartet and a string quartet by the grande dame of contemporary music as equivalent. Rather, just as they honor Haydn by continuing to perform his quartets, they seek to honor Tower by presenting her Incandescent, which they premiered in 2003.
But the quartets of Tower and Haydn are not central to the repertoire of the Emerson Quartet in the way Beethoven and Shostakovich quartets are. The Emerson has recorded complete cycles of both of those composers' quartets and has performed both concerts and concert series dedicated to them. Beethoven and Shostakovich are central to the repertoire of every string quartet — but to the Emerson, Beethoven and Shostakovich are heroic composers.