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.”