Every Moment Present draws us into three distinctly creative minds – each gripped by an all-consuming obsession during the conception of these works. Caroline Shaw’s Entr’acte ruminates on sudden, surprising musical shifts as an idée fixe. Inspired by a breathtakingly unexpected shift of character and key in Haydn’s Op. 77 No. 2, Entr’acte quietly captivates as it moves between moments that in Shaw’s own words: ‘take you to the other side of Alice’s looking glass, in a kind of absurd, subtle, technicolor transition.’ In a startling tonal shift, Janáček’s Intimate Letters is an expression of the composer’s insatiable infatuation with a married woman 37 years his junior. Erratically swinging between wild howls and otherworldly whispers, the work paints a striking portrait of maddening, unrequited love. Lastly, Mendelssohn’s Op. 80 String Quartet, written while the composer was grieving the tragic loss of his beloved sister, fixes a relentless gaze on the many faces of mortality. A tender elegie, a darkly seductive totentanz, and a mad flee from the reaper himself build layer upon layer to depict the human struggle to understand death and live alongside it.
The album’s title was inspired by Mendelssohn’s own words, written in a personal letter during the composition of his Op. 80. Expressing the profundity of his loss, he explained that his sister Fanny had been throughout his life “every moment present”- a striking statement given that they spent much of their adult lives over 100 miles apart. We know from other letters that Fanny was an artistic champion, kindred soul, and emotional support for her brother – possibly his closest relationship – and that this bond was woven together by their shared love of music. In this context, “every moment present” is more than a poetic substitution for “obsession.” It describes what we as a quartet value most about living with and sharing this music. Our great hope is that these works may deepen and enliven all of us, emboldening us to be more fully aware and connected in every moment – to ourselves and to each other.