The genesis of “Quartet La Jolla” was a request by SummerFest music director Cho-Liang “Jimmy” Lin, who encountered Williams while performing at Tanglewood, that Williams write a piece for Lin’s California festival.
Williams took the idea under advisement, and as he was already writing a harp concerto for the Boston Symphony, he decided to experiment with the harp in a chamber context that also included violin, clarinet and cello. He wrote two movements and then set the project aside until one of Lin’s associates applied more pressure.
“I’ve been pretty regularly visiting Chicago Symphony to conduct every year for the past 10 years or so, and two or three years back, John Yeh, who played principal clarinet at Chicago, came in the dressing room and said, ‘I hear you are writing a piece for Jimmy Lin and it has a clarinet in it. I hope you are going to finish the piece.’
“And at that point, I had no idea whether I was going to have time, or energy, or any of the required things, and he said, ‘Oh, please finish it.’?”
Yeh badgered Williams again the next year, and finally Williams completed the piece. “The creation of this little thing has taken place over a half-dozen years or so,” Williams said, with a tinge of amazement in his voice. He doesn’t have that kind of time with his movie scores, although the creation of those simple yet enduring themes that are one of his trademarks takes longer than you might think.