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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