‘Quarter La Jolla’ Video Online (Updated with Williams’ Program Notes)

Click below to watch the world premiere performance of John Williams’ Quartet La Jolla, which took place last August at the SummerFest. You can also watch the video on the YouTube page (available in HD 720p).  (WILLIAMS’ ‘QUARTET LA JOLLA’ PREMIERE STARTS AT 22:32)

PROGRAM NOTES (From the La Jolla Music Society website)

Quartet La Jolla (2011)

Born 1932


The idea for the La Jolla Quartet resulted from a conversation that I had with Cho-Liang Lin at Tanglewood, after we had performed a Mozart concerto together. Cho-Liang, familiar to me for many years as a magnificent artist, delighted me when he told me of his music festival in beautiful La Jolla, California, and when he graciously asked if I would contribute a piece for his festival there. I was gratified and even flattered by his suggestion, and given the usual constraints of my work in film, I was especially grateful for the freedom that he offered in saying… “write for any combination of instruments you wish”… and so, I agreed to contribute what I could. The concept of a quartet comprised of violin, cello, clarinet and harp intrigued me, and so I set out to do a piece that would explore some of the interesting sonorities available in this seldom-heard instrumentation.

The work is in five movements, beginning with an Introduction, which presents declamatory gestures framing some of the contextual parameters of volume, texture and color that we’re about to hear. The second movement, Aubade, explores the harp’s very unique role as the spiritual center and life-enhancing force of the entire piece. The Scherzo is a brief and gossamer flight where the quartet defies gravity as it dips, dives and soars… hopefully without ever touching the ground! The fourth movement, Cantando, gives the clarinet the opportunity to reflect and ruminate to the accompaniment of a steady cello pizzicato, and leads the journey of exploration, finishing with a brief cadenza. And finally in the fifth movement, Finale, the entire group… con brio… collects and gathers its energy to produce a forceful and uplifting finale.

Without the constraints of any programmatic scheme, numerical formulations or procedures, writing this piece was a joy for me. I simply relished the pleasure of exploring the instrumental possibilities that would allow four magnificent artists to display their art.

I have dedicated the entire work to my friend Cho-Liang Lin. However… for the second movement, I wish to acknowledge my debt to harpist Ann Hobson Pilot, who was the inspiration for my Harp Concerto, and who was something of a spiritual guide as I worked on the Aubade movement, which reflects some of my research and preparatory work on the concerto.

Also I have to mention the great clarinetist John Bruce Yeh, whose work in the Chicago Symphony I’ve greatly admired. When John learned that I was writing this piece, he encouraged me to finish it, and when I was told that he was a frequent guest at SummerFest I decided to write the fourth movement, Cantando, expressly for him. Of course, my greatest thanks and deepest indebtedness go to Cho-Liang Lin for having conceived this project, which I hope in some small measure, might reward listeners and players alike.

– John Williams