The Shanghai Quartet

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Honggang Li, viola

Nicholas Tzavaras, cello

Weigang Li, violin

Yi-Wen Jiang, violin

 

“Celebrating 32 years of carrying the torch of rigorous musical integrity and profound
commitment to playing music as if it was always being created anew.”
Strings Magazine - August 8, 2015

 

Renowned for its passionate musicality, impressive technique and multicultural innovations, the Shanghai Quartet has become one of the world’s foremost chamber ensembles.  Its elegant style melds the delicacy of Eastern music with the emotional breadth of Western repertoire, allowing it to traverse musical genres including traditional Chinese folk music, masterpieces of Western music and cutting-edge contemporary works.

Formed at the Shanghai Conservatory in 1983, the Quartet has worked with the world’s most distinguished artists and regularly tours the major music centers of Europe, North America and Asia. Recent festival performances range from the International Music Festivals of Seoul and Beijing to the Festival Pablo Casals in France, Beethoven Festival in Poland, Yerevan Festival in Armenia and Cartagena International Music Festival in Colombia, as well as numerous concerts in all regions of North America. The Quartet has appeared at Carnegie Hall in chamber performances and with orchestra; in 2006 they gave the premiere of Takuma Itoh’s Concerto for Quartet and Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Among innumerable collaborations with noted artists, they have performed with the Tokyo, Juilliard and Guarneri Quartets, cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Lynn Harrell, pianists Menahem Pressler, Yuja Wang, Peter Serkin and Jean-Yves Thibaudet, pipa virtuosa Wu Man and the male vocal ensemble Chanticleer. The Shanghai Quartet has been regular performers at many of North America’s leading chamber music festivals, including the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and Chamberfest Ottawa.

The Quartet has a long history of championing new music and juxtaposing traditions of Eastern and Western music.  For the Quartet’s 30th Anniversary season, the La Jolla SummeFest commissioned a sextet for piano, string quartet and bass from David Del Tredici. The Tucson Winter Festival commissioned a piano quintet from Australia composer Carl Vine, nd Korean composer Jeajoon Ryu composed a concerto for string quartet and symphony orchestra. Their 25th anniversary season featured Penderecki’s String Quartet No. 3Leaves From an Unwritten Diary, Chen Yi’s From the Path of BeautyString Quartet No. 2 by Vivian Fung and jazz pianist Dick Hyman’s String Quartet.  The Penderecki was premiered at a special 75th birthday concert in Poland honoring the composer followed by U.S. premieres were at Peak Performances, Montclair State University and the Modlin Center, University of Richmond followed by numerous performances worldwide. It was featured at the festival celebrating the composer’s 80th Birthday in Poland in November 2013. Chen Yi’s From the Path of Beauty,  co-commissioned with Chanticleer, was premiered in San Francisco, followed by performances at Tanglewood and Ravinia, Beijing and Shanghai. Other important commissions and premieres include works by Bright Sheng, Lowell Lieberman, Sebastian Currier, Lei Liang, Marc Neikrug and Zhou Long. Bright Sheng’s Dance Capriccio had its premiere in spring 2012 with pianist Peter Serkin. Later that year, Sweet Suite, a piano quintet by Stephen Prutsman was premiered with the composer at the piano.  Dan Welcher’s Museon Polemos for double quartet premiered in September 2012 with the Miro Quartet at the University of Texas at Austin. The tradition will continue in 2015-16 with the premiere of Red Lantern for string quartet and pipa by Zhao Ji-Ping, China’s most renowned film composer (Raise the Red Lantern, Farewell, My Concubine…) with Wu Man.

The Shanghai Quartet has an extensive discography of more than 30 recordings, ranging from the Schumann and Dvorak piano quintets with Rudolf Buchbinder to Zhou Long’s Poems from Tang for string quartet and orchestra with the Singapore Symphony (BIS).  Delos released the Quartet’s most popular disc, Chinasong, in 2003: a collection of Chinese folk songs arranged by Yi-Wen Jiang reflecting on his childhood memories of the Cultural Revolution in China.  In 2009 Camerata released the Quartet’s recordings of the complete Beethoven String Quartets, a seven-disc project.

A diverse and interesting array of media projects include a cameo appearance playing Bartok’s String Quartet No. 4 in Woody Allen’s film “Melinda and Melinda” to PBS television’s Great Performances series. Violinist Weigang Li appeared in the documentary “From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China,” and the family of cellist Nicholas Tzavaras was the subject of the 1999 film “Music of the Heart,” starring Meryl Streep. 

The Shanghai Quartet currently serves as Quartet-in-Residence at the John J. Cali School of Music, Montclair State University, New Jersey, Ensemble-in-Residence with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, and visiting guest professors of the Shanghai Conservatory and the Central Conservatory in Beijing. They are proudly sponsored by Thomastik-Infeld Strings.

 
 
Shanghai Quartet with Wu Man. Photo by Ben Doyle.

Shanghai Quartet with Wu Man. Photo by Ben Doyle.