The Shanghai Quartet
“A wonderfully ferocious and illuminating performance.”— The Washington Post
Over the past thirty-five years the Shanghai Quartet has become one of the world’s foremost chamber ensembles. The Shanghai’s elegant style, impressive technique, and emotional breadth allows the group to move seamlessly between masterpieces of Western music, traditional Chinese folk music, and cutting-edge contemporary works. Formed at the Shanghai Conservatory in 1983, soon after the end of China’s harrowing Cultural Revolution, the group came to the United States to complete its studies; since then the members have been based in the U.S. while maintaining a robust touring schedule at leading chamber-music series throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Highlights of the Shanghai Quartet’s 2019-20 season include performances at Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Freer Gallery (Washington, D.C.), and the Festival Pablo Casals in France, and Beethoven cycles for the Brevard Music Center, the Beethoven Festival in Poland, and throughout China. Other recent highlights include performances at the Wigmore Hall, the Budapest Spring Festival, and Suntory Hall, as well as collaborations with the NCPA and Shanghai Symphony Orchestras. Among innumerable collaborations with eminent artists, they have performed with the Tokyo, Juilliard, and Guarneri Quartets; cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Lynn Harrell; pianists Menahem Pressler, Peter Serkin, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and Yuja Wang; pipa virtuoso Wu Man; and the vocal ensemble Chanticleer. The Shanghai Quartet appears regularly at many of North America’s most prominent chamber-music festivals, including annual performances for Maverick Concerts, the Brevard Music Center, and Music Mountain.
The Shanghai Quartet has a long history of championing new music, with a special interest in works that juxtapose the traditions of Eastern and Western music. The Quartet has commissioned works from an encyclopedic list of the most important composers of our time, including William Bolcom, Sebastian Currier, David Del Tredici, Tan Dun, Vivian Fung, Lowell Lieberman, Zhou Long, Marc Neikrug, Krzysztof Penderecki, Bright Sheng, Chen Yi, and Du Yun. The Quartet has a particularly close relationship with Krzysztof Penderecki; they premiered his third quartet – Leaves From an Unwritten Diary – at the composer’s 75th birthday concert and repeated it again at both his 80th and 85th birthday celebrations. Forthcoming and recent commissions include new works from Judith Weir, Tan Dun, and Wang Lei, in addition to a new work from Penderecki. The Shanghai Quartet has an extensive discography of more than thirty 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. The Quartet has also recorded a collection of Chinese folk songs called Chinasong, featuring music arranged by Yi-Wen Jiang reflecting on his childhood memories of the Cultural Revolution in China. The Quartet has recorded the complete Beethoven string quartets and is currently recording the complete Bartók quartets. A diverse array of media projects run the gamut from a cameo appearance playing Bartók’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 film Music of the Heart, starring Meryl Streep. The Shanghai Quartet is the subject of a full-length documentary film, Behind the Strings, that will be released in 2019.
The Shanghai Quartet performs on four exceptional instruments by Stradivari, Guarneri, Goffriller, and Guadagnini, generously loaned through the Beare’s International Violin Society to honor the quartet’s thirty-fifth anniversary. Serving as Quartet-in-Residence at the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University since 2002, the Shanghai Quartet will also join the Tianjin (China) Juilliard School in fall 2020 as resident faculty members. The Quartet also is the 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 and BAM Cases.
Weigang Li, violin
Born into a family of well-known musicians in Shanghai, Weigang Li began studying the violin with his parents when he was 5 and went on to attend the Shanghai Conservatory at age 14. Three years later, in 1981, he was selected to go to study for one year at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music through the first cultural exchange program between the sister cities of Shanghai and San Francisco. Read More »
In 1985, upon graduating from the Shanghai Conservatory, Weigang Li left China again to continue his studies at Northern Illinois University and later studied and taught at the Juilliard School as teaching assistant to the Juilliard Quartet. His teachers have included Shmuel Ashkenasi, Isadore Tinkleman, and Tan Shu-Chen. Mr. Li was featured in the 1980 Oscar winning documentary film From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China. He made his solo debut at 17 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and has appeared as soloist with Shanghai Symphony, China Philharmonic, BBC Scottish Symphony, Asian Youth Orchestra. Weigang Li is a founding member and first violinist of the Shanghai Quartet since 1983. In its 31th season, the Shanghai Quartet has performed well over 2000 concerts in 30 countries; recorded 34 CD albums, including 7-discs cycle of complete Beethoven string quartets on Camerata label.
Weigang Li is a violin professor at Montclair State University in New Jersey and Bard College Conservatory of Music in New York. He also holds the title of guest concert-master of Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and guest professor at Shanghai Conservatory and Central Conservatory in Beijing
Mr. Li plays on a 1714 Antonio Stradivari nicknamed “Kneisel Grün” generously loaned to him by the Beare International Violin Society
Honggang Li, viola
Honggang Li is the founding member Shanghai Quartet, now in it’s 30th season, has performed over two thousand concerts in 30 countries and can be heard on more than 30 CD albums.
Mr.Li began studying the violin with his parents at age seven. When the Central Conservatory of music in Beijing reopened in 1977 after the Cultural Revolution, Mr.Li was selected to attend from a group of over five hundred applicants.
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He continued his training at the Shanghai Conservatory and co- founded the Shanghai Quartet with his brother Weigang while in his senior year in the conservatory. The quartet soon became the first Chinese quartet to win a major international chamber music competition (the London International) and came to the US in 1985. He received MM of North Illinois University and served as a teaching assistant at the Juilliard School in New York. In 1987, he won the special prize ( a 1757 DeCable violin) given by Elisa Pegreffi of Quartetto Italiano at the First Paolo Borciani International Competition in Italy.
Mr.Li is currently also an artist-in-residence and faculty at Montclair State University and held the same title at University of Richmond in Virginia from 1989 to 2003. He has been the guest professor of both conservatories of Shanghai and Beijing. Mr. Li is also the guest principle violist of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra since 2009.
Mr. Li plays on a 1700 Matteo Goffriller viola generously loaned to him by the Beare International Violin Society
Nicholas Tzavaras, cello
A Native of Spanish Harlem in New York City, cellist Nicholas Tzavaras has toured the globe as a chamber musician, soloist and educator for the past two decades. He has performed more than 1500 concerts worldwide, from Cartegena Columbia to the Tonhalle in Zurich to Nagasaki Japan. The New York Times calls his playing “richly singing” and “beautifully nuanced.” Since 2000, Mr. Tzavaras has been the cellist of the internationally renowned Shanghai Quartet. Read More »
Recent festival engagements have included the Brevard, La Jolla and Taos festivals, the Casals festival in Prades France, the Melbourne Music Festival in Australia and the Marlboro Festival. Mr. Tzavaras has held the esteemed title of guest principal cellist of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra since 2009. He has recorded more than 21 albums for the Naxos, Delos, Bis, Centaur, Camerata, and New Albion labels, including Beethoven’s string quartet cycle and Bright Sheng’s songs for pipa and cello with Wu Man, to name a few.
Formerly on the faculty of the University of Richmond, Mr. Tzavaras is currently the coordinator of the String Department and artist in residence at Montclair State University’s John J. Cali School of Music. He is also guest professor at the Shanghai and Central Conservatories of China. In the fall of 2016 Tzavaras joined the faculty of the Longy School of Music in Boston.
Mr. Tzavaras began the violin at age 2 with his mother, Roberta Guaspari and moved to the cello when he was 6. A graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, he went on to receive degrees from the New England Conservatory and the State University of New York at Stonybrook where his cello teachers were Laurence Lesser and Timothy Eddy. Mr. Tzavaras can be seen in the Academy Award nominated documentary “Small Wonders,” the motion picture “Music of the Heart” starring Meryl Streep and with the Shanghai Quartet in Woody Allen’s “Melinda Melinda.”
When he is not with his cello, Mr. Tzavaras is an avid cyclist, occasional triathlete, enthusiastic but unfortunately average chess player and, perhaps most importantly, a challenged father of three children all under the age of eleven.
Mr. Tzavaras plays on a rare 1710 Joseph Guarneri fillius Andreae cello generously loaned to him by the Beare International Violin Society.