In “A Late Quartet,” a film currently in theaters, a venerable New York-based string quartet is brought to the brink of dissolution when its longtime cellist decides his time has come to leave the group. Hollywood has a hard time accurately depicting classical musicians, and in the film’s risibly melodramatic climax, a performance breaks off mid-movement as the cellist rises from his seat to deliver his farewell speech to an astonished audience.
Fortunately for us, music rarely imitates movies imitating music. David Finckel, the longtime real-life cellist of the Emerson String Quartet, calmly announced earlier this year that this current season will be his last with the ensemble. Far from melodramatic, this move has long seemed inevitable as Finckel has been piling up commitments outside of the quartet as a soloist, educator, and administrator. The British cellist Paul Watkins will be replacing him, but for now, Finckel and the group are still touring. Sunday afternoon’s Celebrity Series recital in Jordan Hall was its last local appearance in the configuration known so well to Boston audiences from the group’s many visits over the years.