Pizzicato: 35 Years of Shanghai Quartet: Beethoven forever

Remy Franck

35 years ago, one of today's foremost chamber ensembles, the Shanghai Quartet, was formed at the Shanghai Conservatory. Since that year they have played around 3000 concerts and recorded 35 albums. Remy Franck met First violinist and founding member Weigang Li in his native Shanghai.

As many Chinese and, more generally, Asian violinists, you studied in the United States….

Yes, but I made the major part of my studies in China, if you don’t consider the fact that studying does never stop. I was born into a family of well-known musicians in Shanghai. Both of my parents were professional violinists and my maternal grand-father was also a violinist. He was born in 1908 and was one of the earliest professional classical violinists in China. I began studying the violin with my parents when I was five and went on to attend the Shanghai Conservatory at 14. Three years later, in 1981, when I was seventeen, I was chosen to go to study for one year at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music through a cultural exchange program between the sister cities of Shanghai and San Francisco. In 1985, I graduated from the Shanghai Conservatory and went on studying again – for my finishing touch – in the United States. But by then, we had already created the Quartet.

Your quartet played in the Stern competition, you having been replaced by a candidate. Was this important for your ensemble?

It is very important for the competition to have this chamber music round. For us it was enriching too. We had interesting ideas which were brought in by the contestants. For me, obviously, it was strange to sit in the Jury and not be part of the ensemble. It was even more astonishing, how flexible my colleagues were when one of the young candidates asked for something very unusual for us. I told myself: ‘Oh, they can do that’. And I am not sure, my colleagues would have agreed if I proposed such a point (laughs).

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