Renowned for its passionate musicality, impressive technique and multicultural innovations, the Shanghai Quartet has become one of the world’s foremost chamber ensembles. Its elegant style melds the delicacy of Eastern music with the emotional breadth of Western repertoire, allowing it to traverse musical genres including traditional Chinese folk music, masterpieces of Western music and cutting-edge contemporary works.
Formed at the Shanghai Conservatory in 1983, the Quartet has worked with the world’s most distinguished artists and regularly tours the major music centers of Europe, North America and Asia. Recent festival performances range from the International Music Festivals of Seoul and Beijing to the Festival Pablo Casals in France and the Beethoven Festival in Poland, as well as numerous concerts in all regions of North America. The Quartet has appeared at Carnegie Hall in chamber performances and with orchestra; in 2006 they gave the premiere of Takuma Itoh’s Concerto for Quartet and Orchestra in Isaac Stern Auditorium. Among innumerable collaborations with noted 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 has been a regular performer at many of North America’s leading chamber music festivals, including Maverick Concerts where they recently made their 27th consecutive annual appearance.
The Quartet has a long history of championing new music and juxtaposing traditions of Eastern and Western music. With more than 30 commissioned works, their recent premieres include Du Yun’s Tattooed in Snow (2015), Zhao Lin’s Red Lantern (2015) for pipa and string quartet, and String Quartet No. 12, Fantasia notturna by William Bolcom (2017). The Quartet’s 30th Anniversary season in 2013 brought five new commissions; Bullycide by David Del Tredici; Fantasie by Australian composer Carl Vine; a concerto for string quartet and symphony orchestra by Jeajoon Ryu; Verge Quartet by Lei Liang and Scherzo by Robert Aldridge, commissioned by Yu Long and the Beijing Music Festival. Their 25th anniversary season featured commission works by Penderecki (String Quartet No. 3: Leaves From an Unwritten Diary), Chen Yi (From the Path of Beauty), Vivian Fung, and jazz pianist Dick Hyman. The Penderecki quartet was premiered at the composer’s 75th birthday concert in Poland, followed by numerous performances worldwide. It was featured again at the composer’s 80th Birthday celebration in 2013. Chen Yi’s From the Path of Beauty, co-commissioned with Chanticleer, premiered in San Francisco, with performances at Tanglewood and Ravinia, Beijing and Shanghai. Other important commissions and premieres include works by Bright Sheng, Lowell Lieberman, Sebastian Currier, Marc Neikrug, and Zhou Long. The tradition continues with forthcoming works by Wang Lei and Tan Dun composed for their 35th Anniversary in 2018-19.
The Shanghai Quartet has an extensive discography of more than 30 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 (BIS). Delos released the Quartet’s most popular disc, Chinasong, a collection of Chinese folk songs arranged by Yi-Wen Jiang reflecting on his childhood memories of the Cultural Revolution in China. The complete Beethoven String Quartets, a highly praised, seven-disc project, can be heard on an acclaimed Camerata set, released in 2009.
A diverse and interesting array of media projects include a cameo appearance playing Bartok’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 documentary film, Behind the Strings, currently in production, to be released this year.
The Shanghai Quartet perform on four exceptional instruments by Goffriller, Guarneri, and Stradivari, generously loaned through the Beare’s International Violin Society, to honor the quartet’s 35th Anniversary. The instruments will be featured in eight cycles of the complete Beethoven String Quartets throughout the world. The Shanghai Quartet currently serves as Quartet-in-Residence at the John J. Cali School of Music, Montclair State University in New Jersey, 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.