San Diego Story
Ken Herman
August 12, 2019

In his opening remarks to Sunday’s La Jolla SummerFest concert, composer David Lang explained that he chose the evening’s program to demonstrate how certain contemporary composers were showing their respect for music’s past. He gave us a helpful insight to Caroline Shaw’s 2011 work “Entre’acte,” noting that the composer set to work on this piece for string quartet after experiencing a quartet by Joseph Haydn.

As the Miró Quartet launched into this single movement work, it was easy to hear the echo of Haydn in Shaw’s lustrous harmony and voicing of the opening motif. The way that Shaw repeated and revoiced this phrase, however, was not at all like the way Haydn developed his musical ideas, and this was, of course, Shaw’s way to salute the past and yet make the piece her own. After some thematic deconstruction, she returned to her main theme, fashioning it with glistening harmonics or very soft pizzicatos. After a final statement of the theme bowed ardently at fortissimo volume, she had the solo cello pluck fragments of the theme as they slowly floated upward into total silence. Kudos to the Miró Quartet for giving this new piece its requisite vigorous articulation while maintaining the ensemble’s customary rich tonal palette.