New Pianist + Familiar Quartet = Satisfaction

The young Israeli-American pianist Benjamin Hochman has been stirring up quite a bit of interest recently. He gave his first performances in the mid-Hudson Valley area on two consecutive days: Saturday evening, June 28th, at Bard College, and Sunday afternoon at Maverick Concerts in Woodstock. With luck we’ll be hearing a good deal more of him.

For years I have been complaining about the tonal quality produced by prominent young pianists. For someone with the golden sound of Sviatoslav Richter and Arthur Rubinstein in his memory, the typical sound of successful young pianists isn’t satisfying; I describe it as bronze at best, clattery at worst. Radu Lupu, Ivan Moravec, Dubravka Tomsic make beautiful sounds but they are a minority contingent. Recently, some young pianists have brought gold back into my reviewing vocabulary, including Yuja Wang and Jeremy Denk. Hochman is another. At Bard, where he played the three Brahms Violin Sonatas with his wife, violinist Jennifer Koh, Hochman displayed quality and variety of tonal production which were deeply satisfying. (The duo also gave a particularly memorable performance of the Third Sonata.)

Read the full article at The Boston Musical Intelligencer »

Shanghai Quartet shines on

ROCKPORT — In some quarters, one can detect a quiet condescension toward the Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki for having turned his back on his futuristic works of the 1950s and ’60s and embraced a more traditional aesthetic. But this superficial judgment crumbles on listening closely to some of Penderecki’s post-avant-garde works, especially the chamber music written since the 1990s.

Consider his Third String Quartet, “Leaves of an Unwritten Diary,” which the Shanghai Quartet commissioned, premiered in 2008, and played on Saturday in the first of two concerts at the Rockport Chamber Music Festival. Its sections are tonally centered and melodically rich. So, sure, call it conservative. But its textures — now caustic and astringent, now dense and motoric — are more internally varied than in most of Penderecki’s earlier works, and the economical use of thematic material is masterfully hidden beneath jagged surfaces. Innovation is not so simple a matter.

Read the full article at The Boston Globe »

Shanghai Quartet shows its mastery at Flagler Museum concert

The Flagler Museum opened its Music Series Tuesday with a concert by the renowned Shanghai Quartet. Currently celebrating its 15th edition, the series has established itself as the most intimate chamber music event in the area with an equally impressive record of consistent quality.

As it was expected, the Shanghai Quartet did not disappoint, and the packed audience was treated to a satisfying evening of fine music.

Read the full review at Palm Beach Daily News »

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.”


Read the full review at Strings »