The Emerson Quartet has announced that cellist David Finckel will leave the ensemble at the end of the 2012–13 season. His replacement will be the British cellist and conductor Paul Watkins. The personnel change is the quartet's first since 1979, when Finckel replaced original cellist Eric Wilson three years after the quartet's formation.

According to a statement from the quartet, Finckel is leaving 'to devote more time to his personal artistic endeavours'. As well as performing in a duo with his pianist wife Wu Han, Finckel is artistic director of summer chamber music festival Music@Menlo, and of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. He is also the creative director of a record company, ArtistLed Records.

Watkins has combined a career as a solo cellist and chamber musician with conducting positions at the English Chamber Orchestra and the Ulster Orchestra. He has been a member of the Nash Ensemble since 1997, but will be leaving the ensemble in order to devote more time to the Emerson Quartet.