Review in Richmond Times-Dispatch

The Shanghai Quartet has enjoyed a loyal following in Richmond for years, and their concert Friday evening at the University of Richmond’s Modlin Center for the Arts attracted yet another packed house.

The quartet — Weigang Li, 1st violin; Yi-Wen Jiang, 2nd violin; Honggang Li, viola; and Nicholas Tzavaras, cello — returned this time with a world-renowned guest artist in tow, pianist Peter Serkin.

They presented a program consisting of three pieces that occupy three unique positions regarding the “standard repertoire” of chamber music: a rarely performed gem by a giant of opera, a fascinating new work composed especially for this particular group of artists, and a favorite masterwork.

Read the full review at Richmond Times-Dispatch »

The Shanghai Quartet’s Jersey Diplomacy

Chamber ensemble marks 30 years of making music & building a cultural bridge between the United States & China

In conversation, the Shanghais are like an old married couple. They interrupt each other frequently, but also finish each other’s sentences. On tour, they request hotel rooms that aren’t near each other, and preferably on separate floors. A rehearsal of Schubert’s Quartettsatz at their Montclair State studio is all business, with barbs flying. Pointed feedback—“You’re rarely together,” and, “You’re too loud,” and, “There’s no dynamics”—is frequently shouted while playing, and when one member demonstrates something, it is quickly interrupted by criticism or another demonstration. But despite the focus on tiny details, the music doesn’t get bogged down.

“They argue a lot,” composer Bright Sheng says. “It’s amazing to see how they work together.”

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Read the full review at Strings »

At Freer, Shanghai String Quartet molded embarrassment of riches into treasure

The Beethoven Op. 132 String Quartet and the Bartok String Quartet No. 4 are pieces that ensembles build whole programs around. Put them back to back on the same program, and they can seem almost an embarrassment of riches. But that’s what the Shanghai String Quartet did in its appearance at the Freer Gallery on Thursday — and its members did it so well that, with the welcome space of an intermission between the two to absorb and decompress, you came away exhilarated.

Passages where inner voices that don’t usually dominate surfaced and gave the music an unexpected new look.

The more loudly passionate movements of each of these quartets came off with power and appropriately hard-edged attacks, but the centerpieces of both are their long, slow middle movements that offer huge challenges to balance, clarity and restraint. These proceeded so serenely and inevitably that one longed for each reappearance of the rising theme of the Beethoven and the shifting textures of the Bartok, and almost hated to have the movements end. And with a violist (Honggang Li) and a cellist (Nicholas Tzavaras) who play magnificent- sounding instruments and who can let their lines emerge almost magically, passages where inner voices that don’t usually dominate surfaced and gave the music an unexpected sort of “aha” new look.

Read the full review at The Washington Post »

Strings Attached

The members of the Shanghai Quartet are sitting in their rehearsal room at Montclair State University when Weigang Li, 47, the first violinist, is asked whether bragging rights go with occupying that first chair. He laughs. “There is no leader, in rehearsal or in concert,” he says. “The quartet is a true democracy.”

To which his brother, Honggang Li, 49, the violist, responds, “Democracy wastes a lot of time.” Everyone laughs, including second violinist Yi-Wen Jiang, 48, and cellist Nicholas Tzavaras, 36.
Weigang nods. “It’s a terrible system,” he agrees. “But everything else is worse.”

Read the full article at New Jersey Monthly »

The Shanghai Quartet 25th Anniversary

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